Game One Hundred Forty-Four – Cubs 8 Braves 3
The Cubs scored 6 runs against John Smoltz in 2+ innings off of two 3-run home runs, one by Jacque Jones and the other by Derrek Lee. Lee homered twice on the night and the Cubs salvaged the last game of the series and the year against the Braves. The Cubs ended several streaks on Monday night in Atlanta….Monday was the first win for the Cubs in Atlanta since April 11, 2004.
Rich Hill was tremendous again and gave up just 1 earned run in 5 2/3 innings. Hill struck out 6 and walked just 2 but two different throwing errors by Aramis Ramirez extended innings and caused Hill’s pitch count to elevate. Ryan Dempster pitched the 7th, gave up a hit and was aided by a very good defense play by Cesar Izturis, who was activated from the DL before the start of Monday’s game. The Cubs played a good game on Monday….a rare event of late. John Smoltz left the game in the 3rd after giving up an uncharacteristic 6 earned runs. Smoltz has had a groin problem all season and he aggravated the injury on Monday night but not before the Cubs had put the game out of reach. Juan Pierre started the game with a single to center, Freddie Bynum followed with a single of his own and with 2 outs Jacque Jones hit a 3-run home run just over the wall in left field. The Cubs added 2 hits in the 2nd but were unable to plate those runs.
The 3rd inning started with back-to-back walks by Freddie Bynum (Bynum walked three times on the night, scored 2 runs and was on base 4 out of 5 times) and Aramis Ramirez. Smoltz asked for Brian McCann to come out to the mound, Smoltz walked around for a little while and the Braves’ trainer and Bobby Cox joined the discussion on the mound. Smoltz stayed in the game to face Derrek Lee and Lee took his first pitch over the right field wall to put the Cubs ahead for good. Lee added a solo shot in the 5th, approximately 420′ over the left field wall. The final run of the night came after a Henry Blanco double, Freddie Bynum walked and Blanco scored on a single by Aramis Ramirez.
The Cubs offense was very efficient and 2 of the 6 walks on the night scored. They left 7 on base and Angel Pagan was the only starter to not record a hit on the night.
Rich Hill took the mound in the bottom of the 1st with a 3-0 lead and he pitched with confidence again. Hill gave up only 6 hits and no home runs to a Braves team that had treated Cubs’ pitching like batting practice this season. Hill mixed in his trademark curve and had success with his fastball. He threw 120 pitches, 80 for strikes and showed fatigue toward the end and Dusty went to the pen with 2 outs in the 6th; Roberto Novoa threw 1 pitch and ended the inning.
The bullpen did a better job on Monday and surrendered only 1 run over the last 3 1/3 innings of the game. Scott Eyre gave up the only run, he has not been as sharp since returning from the DL. Ryan Dempster, as mentioned, pitched the 7th and gave up a hit and struck out 1 but he faced the minimum because of the fine defensive play. Bobby Howry gave up a hit in the 9th.
The Cubs head back to Chicago for the first of three with the Dodgers. Greg Maddux will not pitch in the series but expect to see Nomar Garciaparra and Kenny Lofton in the lineup for the Dodgers plus the first appearance of Rafael Furcal this season in Chicago….what kind of reception will he see? Sean Marshall needs to take the next step in his development and win a ballgame.