Game One Hundred One – Cubs 5 Cardinals 4
With Roster Moves – Hill Recalled and Aardsma Optioned Before Thursday’s Game
What started out great for the Cubs turned sour and finished just the way the game started, with the Cubs coming out on top of the Cardinals. Rich Hill was tremendous in the 1st inning and then slipped back into his Major League form when he took the mound in the 2nd but Jeff Weaver was equally as sloppy and the Cubs never gave up. The Cubs bullpen was tremendous and did not allow the Cardinals to score any runs after Hill left the game.
The Cubs went back-to-back in the 1st inning for the 4th time in a week, Todd Walker hit one out to right and Michael Barrett hit one out to left, a combined 825 wonderful feet. The defense was just spectacular for the Cubs and that was the difference in the game. Scott Rolen could not come up with a Michael Barrett grounder in the 6th and his error allowed the winning run to score. The Cubs are now 7-3 on the season against the Cardinals having won 5 straight against the Cards at Wrigley….the Cardinals are 0-7 in Chicago this season. Rich Hill made his 5th start of the season and after the 1st inning it looked like the young lefty had turned the corner. Hill was tremendous; he worked fast and looked very confident and comfortable on the mound. He retired the Cardinals on just 10 pitches, 7 for strikes and recorded the 3 outs on two groundouts (one on a great play by Todd Walker) and a fly out. When Hill took the mound in the 2nd there was something visibly different, his paced slowed down and at several times he appeared to be very frustrated. After a 10-pitch at bat to Scott Rolen that resulted in a walk, Juan Encarnacion took Hill’s first pitch over the left field wall; it was a very hard hit line drive. Jim Edmonds then singled and scored on a double by Hector Luna. Hill had never pitched with a lead at the Major League level and in fact the Cubs had only scored 1 run for him in his 4 previous starts (Hill had allowed 20 runs before Thursday) but his lapse cost him a chance at his first career victory. The Cardinals added another run in the 3rd off of Hill, after a leadoff single Chris Duncan scored (a la the belly flop slide) on a single to center by Encarnacion.
Whatever confidence Hill had at the beginning of the game was quickly lost and he was pulled after getting 1-out in the 4th. Hill finished the night giving up 4 runs on 6 hits; he walked 3 and struck out 1 on 83 pitches, 48 for strikes. The Cubs must figure out what the next step is for Rich Hill.
Dusty used his entire bullpen with the exception of Scott Eyre and other than a few hits and a little trouble for Ryan Dempster the bullpen did a great job. Michael Wuertz has pitched extremely well since his last recall and when he came into the game in the 4th, the bases were loaded, 1-out and Albert Pujols stepped to the plate. Wuertz threw a couple past Pujols before inducing a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. The bullpen allowed just 6 more hits, struck out 2 and walked 2 (1 was intentional to Pujols in the 6th on a very strange pitching change). Ryan Dempster picked up his 18th save of the season and while it was not a “pretty” save, he did record the 27th out and that is all that matters. And while the bullpen did their job, the Cubs defense had their best game of the season. Not only did they make the routine plays they also made the spectacular ones. They turned two double plays, including a 4-3 double play by Neifi Perez to end the game. Every position player, with the exceptions of Phil Nevin, Michael Barrett and Matt Murton each made highlight reel type of plays, from a defensive point of view it was a great game to watch.
The offense continued doing their part and recorded 12 hits on the night. While they did leave 9 on base, including 5 in the first 4 innings, they kept pressure on Weaver all night and finally broke through in the 6th. After an early lead thanks to the back-to-back home runs by Walker and Barrett in the 1st inning was erased, the Cubs were down 4-2 when Jacque Jones stepped to the plate. Jones singled to start the inning but was erased on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Phil Nevin. Nevin moved to 2nd on a ground out by Matt Murton and scored on a single to right by Neifi Perez. Angel Pagan walked and Juan Pierre singled to left to score Neifi. Todd Walker drew a walk to load the bases and Pagan scored on the Rolen error off the bat of Michael Barrett.
The Cubs have played some of their best ball of the season since the train-ride from D.C. to New York. Carlos Marmol will attempt to keep the Cubs in the win column on Friday afternoon.
Roster Moves – Rich Hill was recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Thursday and David Aardsma was optioned back to Iowa to make room for Hill on the active roster.