Johnson Bunts … and the Cubs Beat the Cardinals – Cubs 3, Cardinals 2

Game Ninety-Nine – Cubs 3, Cardinals 2
WP – James Russell (4-0) LP – Joe Kelly (1-4) Save – Carlos Marmol (13)

wflag.jpgThe Cubs ended their five-game losing streak against the Cardinals on Saturday afternoon at the old ballyard. Reed Johnson drove in the game winner with a pinch-hit RBI bunt single in the seventh inning. The bullpen pitched three scoreless frames in relief of Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs held on for their 17th win since June 25 (17-10).

Alfonso Soriano (1-for-4 with a triple and two RBI) gave the Cubs an early lead with his first three-bagger of the season. Starlin Castro (1-for-4 with a double and a run scored) and David DeJesus (2-for-3 with a run scored and a walk) scored and the Cubs took a 2-1 lead in the first inning.

The game remained 2-1 until the sixth inning when all of the free passes finally caught up with Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija issued two of his six walks on the afternoon in the sixth and Matt Carpenter tied the game with a sac fly to right. Samardzija was able to wiggle his way out of another jam and the Cubs took the lead for good in the seventh.

Bryan LaHair (0-for-2 with a walk) walked to start the seventh, the Cubs first free pass of the day. Tony Campana ran for LaHair, stole second and advanced to third on a single to left off the bat of Geovany Soto (1-for-3). After Jeff Baker and Luis Valbuena failed to get the run in from third with less than two outs, Dale Sveum sent Reed Johnson up to hit for James Russell.

Reed Johnson surprised the Cardinals and bunted Brian Fuentes’ first pitch up the third baseline. The ball hit, died in the grass and Campana slid in safe with the go ahead run.

The Cubs offense managed only six hits and two walks on the afternoon and at one point rookie Joe Kelly retired 14 in a row. But the Cubs took advantage of the opportunities they had (3-for-9 with RISP, five left on base) and held on at the end.

Jeff Samardzija was excellent and horrible all at the same time. Samardzija issued a season-high six walks but allowed just three hits while striking out seven over six innings of work. Samardzija limited the high octane Cardinals’ offense to just two runs after giving them six free baserunners.

Jeff Samardzija’s first seven pitches of the game were out of the strike zone. Samardzija walked the bases loaded with no outs in the first but was able to escape his jam with allowing only one run. Two of the six walks Samardzija issued scored and both runs scored without a hit. Samardzija threw 104 pitches, 58 for strikes, and received a no decision on a day he could have been blown out.

James Russell improved to 4-0 on the season after facing the minimum in the seventh. Shawn Camp pitched a scoreless eighth and despite making things interesting in the ninth, Carlos Marmol closed it out and picked up his 13th save of the season.

Dale Sveum was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing a call at first base. With the bases loaded and two down, Starlin Castro hit a slow roller to short that replays showed he beat out. Sveum argued and had to watch the final two innings in the Cubs’ clubhouse.

With Saturday’s victory, the Cubs improved to 41-58 on the season …

Jeff Samardzija’s day began on a sour note. Jeff Samardzija had control issues and missed the strike zone with his first seven pitches. After walking Skip Schumaker on four pitches, Samardzija missed on his first three offerings to Jon Jay. Samardzija finally threw a strike before bouncing a breaking ball in on a 3-2 pitch. With Schumaker and Jay on via free passes, Matt Holliday stepped to the plate. Samardzija walked Holliday on five pitches to load the bases with no outs.

Carlos Beltran bailed out Samardzija by swinging at the first pitch. Beltran hit a slow roller to Jeff Baker at second that Baker backed up on before making a low, side-arm toss to Starlin Castro. Holliday was called out (Castro was in the neighborhood) but the Cubs could not turn the double play and Schumaker scored the first run of the game. With runners on first and third, Samardzija struck out Lance Berkman for the second out. Yadier Molina hit a 0-1 pitch toward third that Valbuena fielded and threw to Baker to end the inning.

Jeff Samardzija did a good job getting out of his jam and basically recording four outs with allowing just one run. Samardzija threw 22 pitches in the first, 10 for strikes.

David DeJesus singled to right (1-2 pitch) to start the Cubs’ first inning. Starlin Castro barreled up a 1-1 pitch and drove the ball to deep left center. The ball one-hopped the vines and DeJesus held at third on Castro’s double. Anthony Rizzo took a poor swing at Joe Kelly’s first pitch and popped out to Daniel Descalso in short left for the first out.

Alfonso Soriano pulled a 1-0 pitch into the left field corner. DeJesus and Castro scored easily and Soriano ended up at third with his first triple of the season. Soriano ran the bases well and took advantage of Matt Holliday’s defense. With Soriano at third and one down, Bryan LaHair grounded out to second (2-2 pitch). Soriano could not score and was stranded when Geovany Soto hit a weak grounder to short (first pitch) to end the inning.

After one, the Cubs led 2-1.

Matt Carpenter flied out to left center for the first out in the second. Daniel Descalso lined Samardzija’s first pitch just out of the reach of Castro into left for the Redbirds’ first hit. Joe Kelly tried to bunt him to second but bunted the ball too hard and right back toward the mound. Samardzija picked up the ball and threw a strike to Castro. Kelly hustled down the line and just beat Castro’s throw. Skip Schumaker worked a full count. Mike Matheny started his pitcher from first on the 3-2 offering to Schumaker and Kelly was able to make it to third on Schumaker’s line drive single to center. Jay grounded out to Rizzo (2-2 pitch) to end the inning. Samardzija needed 39 pitches to get through two innings, 21 for strikes.

The bottom of the Cubs’ lineup did nothing in the second.

Samardzija set down the top of the Cardinals’ lineup in the third. Samardzija struck out both Carlos Beltran and Lance Berkman swinging to end the inning … 48 pitches for Samardzija after three, 28 for strikes.

The top of the Cubs’ lineup did nothing in the third. Kelly threw 49 pitches in his first three frames, 33 for strikes.

Jeff Samardzija struck out Molina swinging (1-2 pitch) to start the fourth. Matt Carpenter worked a one-out walk and advanced to second on a 1-2 pitch in the dirt to Daniel Descalso. Descalso grounded out to second, Carpenter advanced to third and was stranded when Kelly tapped back to Samardzija (first pitch) for the third out. Samardzija’s pitch count stood at 68 (41 strikes) after four.

The middle of the Cubs’ lineup went down in order in the fourth.

Samardzija retired Schumaker (swinging strikeout), Jay (pop out to short) and Holliday (groundout to short) in order in the fifth … 82 pitches for Samardzija after five, 49 for strikes.

The Cubs did nothing in the fifth … 14 in a row retired by Joe Kelly.

Samardzija started the sixth inning by striking out Carlos Beltran on a 96 mph fastball … and the inning went downhill from there. Berkman walked on five pitches. Mike Matheny called for a hit and run on a 1-0 offering to Molina. Molina broke his bat on a single to left, Berkman held at second with one out … just the third hit allowed by Samardzija. Carpenter walked on four pitches to load the bases with one down.

Daniel Descalso launched a 1-0 pitch to deep right. The wind knocked the ball down, LaHair caught it and Berkman tagged from third. Berkman scored the tying run while Molina advanced to third with two outs. Samardzija ended his day by striking out Joe Kelly swinging to end the sixth.

David DeJesus pulled a 1-0 pitch to the hole at second. Schumaker made a diving stop but could not field the ball. DeJesus reached on the Cubs’ first hit since the opening inning. Castro struck out swinging. Rizzo worked a long at bat (eight pitches) that ended with a fly out to center. Soriano popped out to shallow right center to end the sixth.

After six, the game was tied at two.

James Russell gave up a single to Skip Schumaker to start the seventh. Jon Jay popped up his bunt attempt to Russell but with Rizzo charging there was no one at first quickly enough to double off Schumaker … but Matt Holliday pulled the first pitch to Luis Valbuena, 5-4-3 inning ending double play.

Bryan LaHair worked the Cubs’ first walk of the game leading off the seventh. Mike Matheny left Joe Kelly into face Geovany Soto as Tony Campana took over at first for LaHair. Kelly paid a lot of attention to Campana and nearly picked him off. Campana took off for second on a 1-0 pitch to Soto … and slid in safe with his 26th stolen base of the season. Soto lined a 2-0 pitch into left. The ball was hit too hard and Pat Listach held Campana at third. Jeff Baker hit a soft liner to Schumaker on the first pitch.

Mike Matheny made his way to the mound and went to his pen for lefty Brian Fuentes. Luis Valbuena struck out swinging for the second out. Darwin Barney was in the on deck circle but was called back for Reed Johnson.

Reed Johnson surprised the Cardinals by bunting the first offering from Fuentes up the third baseline. Fuentes picked up the ball but had no play. Campana slid in safe with the go ahead run. David DeJesus walked on four pitches to load the bases with two outs.

Starlin Castro hit a slow roller toward short (1-2 pitch). Daniel Descalso fielded the ball and made a strong throw to first. Castro was called out by first base umpire Mike Winters. Replays showed Castro beat the throw. Dale Sveum argued his case and was ejected.

At the end of seven, the Cubs led 3-2.

Shawn Camp struck out Carlos Beltran and retired Lance Berkman on a pop out to center to begin the eighth. Yadier Molina worked a walk. Camp got Matt Carpenter to roll over the top of a 0-1 pitch (groundout to second) to end the inning.

The Cubs did nothing against lefty Barret Browning in the eighth … and the game went to the ninth with the Cubs clinging to a 3-2 lead.

Daniel Descalso singled to center off Carlos Marmol to start the ninth. Tyler Greene ran for Descalso. Allen Craig hit for Barret Browning and launched a 2-2 pitch into center that DeJesus hauled in for the first out. Marmol paid a lot of attention to Greene and even pitched out with Schumaker at the plate. Greene swiped second on a 1-1 pitch to Schumaker. Soto’s throw was low, got past Castro but Barney was backing up the play and kept Greene from advancing to third. Schumaker worked a full count before swinging over the top of a slider for the second out. Jon Jay stepped in with the tying run on second. Jay was 0-for-5 in his career against Marmol with five strikeouts … Jay chopped a 2-2 pitch back up the middle that Darwin Barney fielded and made a side-armed off balance throw to Rizzo for the 27th out.

It is always a good day when the Cubs beat the Cardinals.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Paul Maholm is scheduled to face Adam Wainwright on Sunday afternoon in the series finale.

Follow ChicagoCubsOnline on Twitter: @TheCCO

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver