Game One Hundred Thirty-Four – Cubs 4 Astros 3
WP – Jason Marquis (11-8) LP – Troy Patton (0-2) Save – Ryan Dempster (24)
The last time the Chicago Cubs were in first place on September 1st was 1989….18 long years later Lou Piniella’s crew started the final month of the regular season with a win. The Cubs offense could not figure out Astros’ rookie, Troy Patton early in the game. They managed only 3 base runners and 1 hit through the first 5 innings. Alfonso Soriano walked with 2 outs in the 3rd inning and scored on a throwing error by Hunter Pence following a double by Ryan Theriot. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez combined for the other 3 runs on the afternoon. Lee singled and scored on a home run by Aramis Ramirez in the 6th and Derrek Lee hit a solo home run in the 8th that was the difference in the game. The “Big 3” really stepped up for their team and ended the Cubs 4-game losing streak against the Astros.
Jason Marquis once again followed a loss with a very good performance. Marquis made only two mistakes and held the Astros’ pesky offense to 2 runs on 5 hits in 6 2/3 innings. Marquis got into an early rhythm, threw strikes and was very efficient. He struck out 5 and walked 1 on 81 pitches, 56 strikes. The Cubs bullpen came through once again with a solid effort. Carlos Marmol retired the only batter he faced with the tying run on in the 7th and Bobby Howry threw a perfect 8th. Ryan Dempster gave up a long home run to Carlos Lee in the 9th but retired the other 3 batters he faced to earn his 24th save. Piniella’s bullpen had allowed only 8 earned runs in their last 43 2/3 innings.
The Cubs improved to 14-21 against left-handed starters and with the win moved back to 4 games above .500. While the Cubs have struggled of late, they are still on top of the division. But several traits over the past month have been concerning to say the least. High pitch counts in the 1st inning, lack of clutch hitting, little if any offensive production against lefties, losing against teams with a record below .500 and the inability to drive the ball….and just not out of the ballpark. The Cubs put some of those concerns to rest, for at least one day, on Saturday.
Jason Marquis pitched a very good game. He limited his pitch count and retired the side in order in the 1st inning on 11 pitches. The only hit he gave up in the first 2 innings was a home run by Luke Scott in the 2nd inning. Troy Patton singled in the 3rd for his first career major league hit, the 3rd on the day for the Astros.
Marquis threw only 7 pitches in the 2nd inning and 15 pitches in the 3rd. In the 4th he struck out Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee. Marquis retired 9 of the 10 batters from the 4th inning through the 6th. Carlos Lee doubled to lead off the 7th and scored after consecutive groundouts by Mark Loretta and Luke Scott. Ty Wigginton singled with 2 outs in the 7th and with the tying run on base, Piniella brought in Carlos Marmol to face the left handed pinch hitter, Mike Lamb.
Piniella’s decision to bring in Marmol to face the left-handed pinch hitter speaks volumes about the confidence Piniella has in Marmol. Mike Lamb fell behind 1-2 after a deep foul to right but popped out to right to end the inning a pitch later.
Bobby Howry pitched a perfect 8th. Ryan Dempster did give up a long home run to Carlos Lee (it landed on Waveland), the second home run he has given up this year. But an aggressive Astros’ offense and a good plays by Jacque Jones and Mark DeRosa, Dempster retired the other 3 batters he faced.
Jason Marquis pitched a very good game, he kept the ball down (9 groundball outs, 6 fly ball outs) and did not battle himself.
The Cubs first run of the day was unearned after their first hit of the afternoon. Alfonso Soriano drew a rare 2-out walk in the 3rd. Ryan Theriot followed with a double to left center. Hunter Pence’s throw missed the first cut off man and got past the second, Soriano had stopped at 3rd but saw the play developing and broke for the plate. Brad Ausmus went to get the ball, Soriano dodged Ausmus and slid head first into home ahead of the throw and tag by Patton.
Patton retired the Cubs in order in the 4th on just 8 pitches and worked around hitting Jason Kendall to start the 5th (Patton hit two Cubs in the game, DeRosa in the 6th). At the end of 5 innings the Astros’ rookie had only thrown 65 pitches.
Derrek Lee worked the count to 3-1 with 1-out in the 6th. He singled on the next pitch to right. Aramis Ramirez stepped in and took a 1-0 offering from Patton over the wall in left. The home run by Ramirez was his first since August 15th and his 19th on the year….and tied Soriano for the team lead. The home run by Ramirez was alao the first by a Cub with a runner on base since Daryle Ward’s grand slam against the Cardinals on August 18th.
Derrek Lee came through again in the 8th. He led off the inning with the Cubs’ 5th hit of the afternoon, a home run to left center….his 16th of the season.
The Cubs wasted a chance to add a couple of tack on runs after Lee’s home run. Aramis Ramirez singled to left. Daryle Ward followed with his 9th pinch hit of the year….an infield single up the middle. Mark DeRosa could not put down a sacrifice bunt and missed on his second attempt. Aramis Ramirez wandered too far off the bag, slipped and was thrown out by Eric Munson. DeRosa struck out and Jason Kendall grounded out to end the inning. While it is very hard to be critical after a win, the Cubs have to work on the art of bunting….those little things add up to big things, especially in September.
Saturday was a good win and now the Cubs must build on it and win the series against the Astros on Sunday….the win improved the Cubs record against the Astros to 5-6 on the year with 4 left.
Rich Hill is scheduled to start the last game of the series on Sunday against Woody Williams.