Cubs Rally Late and Strop the Braves from Celebrating – Cubs 3, Braves 1

Game One Hundred Fifty-Five – Cubs 3, Braves 1

WP – Carlos Villanueva (7-8) LP – Scott Downs (4-4, BS 4) Save – Pedro Strop (1)

wflag-pubThe Cubs scored three runs in the eighth on run scoring hits from Anthony Rizzo and Dioner Navarro and a sacrifice fly by Nate Schierholtz and beat the Braves on Saturday afternoon at the old ballyard.

The Cubs offense was non-existent over the first seven innings. The Cubs put two runners on base only one time against Kris Medlen and it appeared the Braves were on their way to celebrating a division title. But Starlin Castro (2-for-4 with a run scored) collected his second hit of the day with one out in the eighth and gave the Cubs a chance.

Fredi Gonzalez went to his pen for lefty Scott Downs following Castro’s single. Donnie Murphy (1-for-1 with a run scored) hit for Luis Valbuena (1-for-2 with a double and a walk) and singled to left. Anthony Rizzo (1-for-4 with a double, a RBI and a run scored) put together one of his better at bats of the season and drove a 3-2 pitch down the left field line. Castro scored the tying run on Rizzo’s 38th double of the year. Dioner Navarro (1-for-3 with a RBI and a walk) followed with a single to right off of David Carpenter and drove in Murphy with the go ahead run. Nate Schierholtz (0-for-3 with a sac fly RBI) plated Rizzo with a sac fly to center.

Pedro Strop struck out the side in the ninth and picked up his first save in a Cubs’ uniform.

Travis Wood recorded his 24th quality start of the season with another excellent outing on Saturday afternoon. Wood went pitch for pitch with Kris Medlen and came within three outs of reaching the 200-inning mark on the season. Wood limited the Braves to one run on five hits with four walks and seven strikeouts. Wood threw 106 pitches, 67 for strikes, in seven-plus innings.

Carlos Villanueva picked up the win after pitching out of a jam in the eighth without allowing the Braves to tack on. Villanueva took over for Wood with runners on first and second with no outs. Villanueva induced a 5-3 double play off the bat of Chris Johnson and Schierholtz made a nice running catch in right on a deep fly off the bat of Evan Gattis to end the inning.

With Saturday’s victory, the Cubs improved to 65-90 on the season with seven games left to play.

Starlin Castro led off the Cubs’ first with a single to center after Travis Wood retired the Braves in order on 14 pitches, 10 for strikes, to begin the game. Dioner Navarro worked a two out walk but with runners on first and second, Schierholtz grounded out to second (0-2 pitch) to end the inning. Kris Medlen threw 15 pitches, 10 for strikes, in his first inning.

Chris Johnson led off the second with a single to right (0-2 pitch), but that was all for the Braves. Wood retired Gattis (flyout to center), Laird (strikeout) and Uggla (pop out to short) to end the inning. Wood needed only 27 pitches, 22 for strikes, to record six outs on Saturday.

Kris Medlen faced the minimum in the second. Brian Bogusevic reached on a one out single to right before Darwin Barney rolled into a 6-3 double play to end the inning. Medlen threw only 24 pitches, seven out of the zone, over his first two innings.

Ryan Sweeney made an outstanding running catch in left center as he crashed into the ivy to take a hit away from B.J. Upton for the first out in the third. Wood retired Medlen and Simmons to end the inning … 1-2-3 for Wood in the third, 35 pitches, 27 for strikes, for Wood after three frames.

The Cubs could not cash in a two-out double by Luis Valbuena in the third. Valbuena pulled a 1-2 pitch into the right field corner then advanced to third on a wild pitch on a 0-1 pitch to Rizzo. But Rizzo grounded out to Johnson at third to end the inning. Medlen was averaging just over 10 pitches per inning after the third (38 pitches, 28 strikes).

The Braves took the lead in the fourth thanks to a walk and an error. Wood struck out Justin Upton swinging for the first out. Wood then issued a four-pitch walk to Freddie Freeman. Chris Johnson followed with his second hit of the game, a bloop single to right. Freeman stopped at second. Evan Gattis ripped a single into center. Freeman stopped at third but Nate Schierholtz overran the routine grounder and Freeman scampered in with the game’s first run. With runners on second and third, one out and the infield in, Gerald Laird grounded out to third. Wood walked Uggla on five pitches. With the bases loaded, B.J. Upton looked at a 0-2 pitch to end the inning. Wood escaped a big jam and threw 59 pitches, 39 for strikes, over four innings.

The Cubs managed a Ryan Sweeney single to left with two down in the fourth, but that was all. Medlen (56 pitches, 38 strikes) and the Braves took a 1-0 lead into the fifth inning.

Travis Wood retired the Braves in order in the fifth, 69 pitches (46 strikes) for Wood after five and Medlen made quick work of the Cubs in the fifth. Medlen threw only 67 pitches, 47 for strikes, over five innings.

The game went to the sixth with the Cubs down 1-0.

Wood gave up a leadoff single to Freeman in the sixth, but that was all. Wood retired Johnson, Gattis and Laird in order to end the sixth. Wood needed 84 pitches, 56 for strikes, to complete six innings on Saturday.

Kris Medlen issued a leadoff to Valbuena in the sixth. Rizzo and Navarro struck out swinging and Schierholtz flied out to right to end the inning. Medlen threw 86 pitches, 57 for strikes, in six innings.

Travis Wood did not get the call on a 2-2 pitch to B.J. Upton in the seventh and ended up walking him. Medlen bunted the older Upton to second. Simmons flied out to right for the third out … 97 pitches for Wood after seven, 63 for strikes.

The game went to the bottom of the seventh with the Cubs down 1-0. Ryan Sweeney lined out to Justin Upton in right center for the first out. Brian Bogusevic smoked a 2-2 pitch toward second that ate up Dan Uggla. Bogusevic was given a hit. Barney rolled into his second inning ending double play (4-6-3) on the afternoon. Medlen completed his seventh shutout inning (98 pitches, 65 strikes) and the game went to the eighth with the Cubs down by a run.

Travis Wood started the eighth and Justin Upton doubled to left. Wood jumped ahead of Freeman 0-2 before walking him and putting runners on first and second with no outs. Dale Sveum made the slow walk and brought in Carlos Villanueva from the pen.

Carlos Villanueva worked out of the jam. Chris Johnson rolled into a 5-3 double play and with Freeman at second, Gattis flied out to Schierholtz in right to end the inning.

The game went to the bottom of the eighth with the Cubs still down by a run.

Kris Medlen stayed in for the eighth and struck out pinch hitter Junior Lake swinging. Starlin Castro lined a 1-1 pitch back up the middle and into center for a single. Fredi Gonzalez decided that was enough for Medlen and went his pen for lefty Scott Downs.

Dale Sveum countered and sent up Donnie Murphy to hit for Valbuena. Murphy singled to left (2-0 pitch). Castro held at second with one out.

Anthony Rizzo stepped in and put together one of his best at bats of the season. Rizzo worked a full count before driving an outside pitch from Downs into left. The ball hit near line, Castro scored and Murphy stopped at third on a double by Rizzo. Gonzalez went back to his pen for righty David Carpenter.

Dioner Navarro ripped a 2-2 pitch into right. Murphy trotted in with the go ahead run and Rizzo held at third with one down. Nate Schierholtz made up for his error and lifted a 1-1 pitch into center. Rizzo tagged and scored, 3-1 Cubs. Sweeney flied out to left to end the inning.

And the game went to the ninth with the Cubs up 3-1.

Pedro Strop was nasty in the ninth and struck out Laird, Uggla and B.J. Upton in order to end the game.

Edwin Jackson faces Julio Teheran in the series and season series finale against the Braves on Sunday afternoon.

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Quote of the Day

"Never let the fear of striking out get in your way of playing the game." – Babe Ruth

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  • John_CC

    Thanks again Neil. I really appreciate the way write the summary before going into inning by inning detail, always a good read.

    I am so happy for Wood that he finished strong, bouncing back from that rough patch after the break. I’m happy for us too, Cubs fans. He really showed a lot of moxy, if you will, this season. I am looking forward to his progress next year.

    Also great to see Castro and Rizzo finishing strong, obviously.

    And congrats to Strop for his first save and in dominant fashion.

    • Neil

      Thanks man.

    • Eugene Debs

      Castro is batting .250 in September. Not exactly “strong.”

      • Tony_Hall

        Not really 3 full seasons

        2011 – 128 AB’s
        2012 – 337 AB’s
        2013 – 580 AB’s

        This is his 2nd season, and 1st full season of play. I would consider this his 2nd year and next year his 3rd.
        Most players make their biggest move in production and create their standard in their 3rd year.

  • SuzyS

    While the Cubs garner my first loyalty for many years…I’ve never hidden the fact that the Red Sox are in fact my other team to root for.

    Here is a pretty interesting read on how they were constructed…and there are more than a few things that relate to what we hope to become:

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Guess who hit another HR today?

  • GaryLeeT

    The Shierholtz’s error in the 4th set up the possibility for a big inning. However, Wood shook it off, and got out of the inning without further damage being done. I can think of another Cub’s starter that would have turned that inning into a 4 spot.. Even though I was an early detractor of him, Wood has shown his mental toughness time, and again. He is definitely a keeper.

    • John_CC

      Right on Gary.

  • GaryLeeT

    I saw that Strop threw 13 of his 16 pitches in the 9th for strikes. Since his first 2 were balls, his last 13 of 14 were strikes. Wow, you’re hired.

  • CubbyDenCritic

    Garza won today. Last win was Aug 19th against Houston…..before that…..Aug 9th against Houston.
    $cott Baker like$ to $tay with the Cub$……but like to hear from other club$ thi$ winter.
    Next Cubs manager…..Ozzie Gullien………my reasons…..
    – Top of the list of Latin unemployed managers
    – Chicago Hero
    – Strong Player Development
    – Big on fundamentals
    – Would be the first manager to win titles on two different teams in the same city.

    • John_CC

      Surely you are just trying to get a rise out of us. You are more astute than to think that Epstein would actually hire the “mouth of the south…side”

      • CubbyDenCritic

        I really want to see how fast a local baseball writer like Rosenbloom, Mitchell or Loxas copy my thoughts and put them in their article……but it would be one of the greatest comebacks in Chicago & baseball history if Gullen did win it.