The Cubs Cain Beat the Giants – Cubs 4, Giants 3

Game Ten – Cubs 4, Giants 3

WP – Kyuji Fujikawa (1-0, BS 1) LP – Sergio Romo (0-1, BS 1) Save – None

wflag-pubThe Cubs had dropped eight of nine against the Giants entering play on Friday afternoon. On another cold day at Wrigley Field, the Cubs jumped out to a lead that the bullpen could not hold. Carlos Villanueva pitched 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball and the Cubs took a 2-0 lead into the ninth. Kyuji Fujikawa struggled with his command again and gave up three runs in the ninth.

Dioner Navarro led off the ninth with a pinch-hit home run off Sergio Romo that tied the game at three … the first pinch hit homer of Navarro’s career.

David DeJesus (3-for-5 with a home run, a double and two runs scored) reached on a two-out bloop single. Starlin Castro (2-for-5 with a home run, a double and two RBI) drove in DeJesus with the game winner, a double off the wall in center on a 2-1 pitch.

The Cubs came from behind against one of the better closers in the game … and walked off with a win against the Giants.

Carlos Villanueva shut down the Giants for 7 1/3 innings on Friday afternoon. Villanueva was excellent again and limited the Giants to three singles and a walk. Only one runner reached second base while he was on the mound. Villanueva left in line for the victory but for the second time in as many starts, the bullpen could not preserve the win. Villanueva’s final line: no runs, three hits, one walk and three strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings on 93 pitches, 55 for strikes.

James Russell recorded the last two outs in the eighth and turned the 2-0 lead over to Kyuji Fujikawa.

The Cubs’ closer had little to no command on Friday and blew his first save of the season. Kyuji Fujikawa gave up three runs on three hits with a hit batsman in the ninth on 30 pitches, 15 for strikes.

The Cubs offense used the conditions at Wrigley to their advantage on Friday. The Cubs first three runs came via windblown home runs. David DeJesus (third inning), Starlin Castro (fifth inning) and Dioner Navarro (ninth inning) each hit their first longballs of the season.

Welington Castillo (2-for-4) extended his hitting streak to six games while continuing to impress behind the plate. Luis Valbuena (1-for-2 with two walks) walked for the sixth straight game and Nate Schierholtz (1-for-4 with a double) collected another hit.

While the Cubs still have not beaten Matt Cain since July of 2007, for once Dale Sveum’s team figured out how to be on the right side of a one-run decision against the Giants.

Angel Pagan led off the game with a single to right on a 0-2 pitch. Welington Castillo then threw him out trying to steal second on a 0-1 pitch to Marco Scutaro. After Castillo picked up his pitcher, Carlos Villanueva went into cruise control. Villanueva did not allow another hit until one out in the fifth … a single to left off the bat of Hunter Pence. Villanueva kept his pitch count down. After four innings, Villanueva had thrown only 42 pitches.

The Cubs offense managed only two runs, solo home runs by David DeJesus in the third and Starlin Castro in the fifth against Matt Cain. While the offense pounded out seven hits and two walks against the Giants’ ace, Carlos Villanueva could not help his own cause at the plate. Villanueva ended three different innings while leaving two runners on base each time (six left on base) … so the 0-for-8 with RISP and eight left on base stats are a little misleading.

Carlos Villanueva took a 2-0 lead into the eighth inning. Villanueva needed only 83 pitches, 49 for strikes, to complete seven innings. Villanueva retired Brandon Belt on a deep fly to left center for the first out. Gregor Blanco singled to right on a 1-2 pitch … just the third hit and fourth baserunner of the day off Villanueva. Dale Sveum made the slow walk and went to his pen for James Russell.

Brandon Crawford greeted Russell with a single to center (1-2 pitch). Blanco ended up at third with one down … the first time all afternoon the Giants had two runners on base and a runner on third. Andres Torres hit for Matt Cain and rapped into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

The Cubs did nothing in the eighth against George Kontos … and the game went to the ninth with the Cubs clinging to a 2-0 lead.

Kyuji Fujikawa struggled with his command and fell behind Angel Pagan 3-0. Pagan flied out to left on a 3-1 offering for the first out. Marco Scutaro lined a 1-1 pitch into the gap in left center. The ball rolled all the way to the vines … and Scutaro ended up at second with the Giants’ first extra basehit of the game. Fujikawa uncorked a wild pitch on a 1-1 pitch to Sandoval. Scutaro advanced to third. Pablo Sandoval blooped the next pitch into right. Schierholtz was playing no-doubles and had to play it on a bounce. Scutaro scored and cut the Cubs lead to 2-1. Bruce Bochy sent Joaquin Arias into run for Sandoval at first.

Fujikawa continued to struggle with his command and hit Buster Posey with a 2-2 pitch. Hunter Pence stepped in with runners on first and second with one down. Pence bounced a 2-2 pitch out to short. Castro fielded the ball cleanly, underhanded to Gonzalez at second but Pence beat the throw to first.

Brandon Belt stepped in and pulled a 2-1 pitch into the right field corner. Arias trotted home to tie the game then Pence was sent and slid in just ahead of Castillo’s tag … and the Giants took a 3-2 lead. Blanco grounded out to second to end the inning.

Sergio Romo took the hill a perfect 15-for-15 in save opportunities since taking over as the Giants’ closer. Dioner Navarro hit for Alberto Gonzalez and ended his streak.

Navarro hit the Cubs third home run of the game into the bleachers in right on a 0-1 pitch … and tied the game at three. Luis Valbuena and Brent Lillibridge struck out.

David DeJesus collected his third hit of the day, a bloop single to center on a 2-1 pitch. Pagan tried to make a diving catch but came up short. DeJesus stopped at first with two down.

Sergio Romo made Castro look very bad in the ninth inning of Thursday’s game … but the Cubs’ shortstop made the right adjustment 24 hours later.

Starlin Castro drove a 2-1 pitch to deep center. The ball hit off the vines, DeJesus scored and the Cubs pulled out the victory.

Jeff Samardzija is scheduled to face Madison Bumgarner on Saturday afternoon.

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Quote of the Day

"Pitching is the cornerstone of most championship teams." – Roger Craig

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  • Dorasaga

    From the LIVE posts earlier, it seems that many fans don’t see Castro improving on his weaknesses, especially his plate discipline.

    I think he’s still a solid shortstop, and he improved at his trade. Castro used to have one of the more erratic throws on the field, which were poorly rated by “The Fielding Bible.” From the last three games that I watched, Castro seemed to have better, more accurate throws, to all directions, especially to first base. That shall translate to less throwing errors for a long season. If that sustains, then with an exceptional range, reaction, and arm he already got, Castro will easily be one of the best shortstops, if not the best.

    Another thing is the rarity of a player to stay healthy at a high-demanding position. Because Castro can stay healthy and play every game, he’s already a solid player. What I see is that all teams have been looking for a sustainable shorstop for years, but most in vain. The Cubs are blessed to have a solid, truly “everyday” shortstop in Castro, not just being another glove, but a good hitter as well.

    • triple

      Yes, I do agree with you that there is improvement, but it almost seems like his strike zone is expanding at this point. The more he does that, the less good pitches he’ll see, and the less HRs he’ll hit too.

      Beyond that, while I was impressed that he played well in the field in ST, right when the season began his glove is having all the same problems as the past. I remember even seeing a questionable scoring that gave a batter a hit, or else he’d have 4 errors instead of 3. Also, no matter how you slice it (and I know it’s a very small sample size), but a .909 fielding % is not the way you want your young season to start off the season. It will only add more unnecessary pressure on defense.

      For the record, I think Castro is badass and hope he remains a Cub for his entire career, but I’d like to see him even just be in the conversation about the gold glove (doesn’t even have to win it) year after year, but this year’s start tells me that he is still very far from gold glove caliber.

      • DWalker

        I think I said it here before, but I’ll say it again. Right now, I think Castro has a much higher potential defense than he has offense. I really see him working on improving his defense the next few years to match his athletic talent. He saw a kid with less talent win a golden glove next to him, and it might take him a while but I do think he will push himself to be a better defender. I am very concerned though that what you see is what you will get from him offensivly. I thought maybe some of of what he worked on last year might stick, but it really looks like he incapable at this point of changing his hitting approach. Maybe if he had been allowed to develop at a slower rate with instruction rather than being rushed to the bigs, he might have learned to be a more patient hitter, but right now I just don’t see any indication he’s even thinking of changing. Maybe once he starts having hitters around him having success with a more patient approach he’ll start thinking about it, but right now he’s a star doing what he’s been doing.

        • John_CC

          Great points. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Castro traded when/if Baez is ready. I’m just no longer convinced that Castro is going to develop into the star that everyone has hoped for.

          • TinTin Rex

            wow! Castro is a star right now and he just a kid…you guys really expect Robots. Just a few weeks ago people here were blasting Baez because of his attitude!? now you say he will make Castro trade bait?
            I think they will play together and that they are extremely young and valuable.

          • GaryLeeT

            I would be for trading Castro and another top prospect, if the Cubs could turn them into a David Price like return.

        • paulcatanese

          I agree with you’re post and would add that I also think he will just not be a team hitter. He is like a fish out of water.
          He truly believes that he is at bat to hit the ball, nothing else, so much to the degree that he will chase impossible pitches to hit.
          I also agree that having a gold glover next to him is going to make him a better fielder.
          Castro is a competitor and wants to be the best at what is out there.
          Take last year when he had so many stolen bases, If it weren’t for Campana
          stealing bases Castro would not have put that much into the stolen base. But he does not want to be beaten at anything.
          Not a bad quality in fact a good one, but until he grasps the context of being a “team player” and what
          its all about his contribution will be at a level that he is at now, and he has too much talent not to go forward.

          • Dorasaga

            We’re watching the New Deadball Era, with MLB batting averages 0.25 and gets on base by a mere 0.32 for FIVE SEASONS now. While Castro isn’t perfect, his 0.3/0.33 through now is above average. He hits to all directions; that’s a rarer skill than any pro club can ever teach. I think he’s a keeper as a pure hitter–Until Baez or the younger shortstops prove overvalue, by either an exceptional glove, or handle a full Major League season as an all-around, fundamental (team) player. This reply is also to the issue @John_CC:disqus brought up.

  • Ray Ray

    I recommend not looking at our Iowa Cubs pitching stats…..especially if you have just eaten dinner.

  • paulcatanese

    A good win, although tainted with Fujikawa in relief. The two hits that helped was the one that Pagan coming in and didn’t make the catch, should have been made, and the second one by Castro at the wall, that catch could( I don’t say should) have been made and the Cubs would have had another loss.
    But its about time the ball bounces in the Cubs favor, they deserve it. One other thing, the home run that Dejesus hit
    was a bomb, only 4-5 rows short of leaving the field altogether, not wind aided, Navarro’s was, but then the wind was blowing for both teams, give a lot of credit to
    the game that Villanueva pitched, a great effort.

    • DWalker

      I caught the end on tv and Fujikawa did not look like he was firing on all cylinders today. It was still better than having Marmol trotted out there now though, but that might be tommorrow. Villanueva is looking like a really nice pickup after his two games so far.

      • Nate

        Yeah, I thought the Villanueva signing was a really savvy move during the offseason. I’m glad it’s working out.

        Castro has hit a ton of hard-hit balls to right-center so far this year. I’m really enjoying watching that approach from him. That should translate to some more pitches middle-in so we can see some more homers like we saw yesterday, I think.

    • bluekoolaidaholic

      I agee Paul, I wonder if Fuji isn’t still adjusting to the larger ball, new team etc. He doesn’t seem comfortable out there to me. One minute throws a beauty up there and the next an apple pie.