Game One Hundred Fifty – Cubs 4 Cardinals 2
WP – Jason Marquis (12-8) LP – Mark Mulder (0-3) Save – Ryan Dempster (28)
Lou Piniella stated on Friday that his team’s goal was to win the very important weekend series against the Cardinals. While the final score on Sunday was much closer than it needed to be, the Cubs’ skipper has to be happy with the end result. The Cubs continued to hit the ball very well, but could not string any hits together. They pounded out 13 hits against Cardinals’ pitching to go along 7 walks and scored only 4 runs. The Cubs’ offense left multiple runners on base in every inning but the 9th, a total of 14 for the game. Matt Murton hit a 3-run home run in the 3rd inning, his 7th of the year that proved to be the difference. With Murton’s longball, the Cubs have hit a home run in 10 straight games, a new season high. Ronny Cedeno’s RBI single in the 3rd accounted for the Cubs 4th run. The Cubs hit 6 doubles, two from Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto. Soto set a new career mark with a 4-for-5 day at the plate.
Jason Marquis pitched one of his best games of the year against his former team. He threw 6 shutout innings and the only run he allowed came after he left the mound. Marquis had very good command and kept the ball down. Marquis gave up 5 hits, struck out 4 and walked 2 in 6 1/3 innings. He recorded 11 groundball outs to just 4 fly ball outs. Carlos Marmol allowed only his 5th inherited runner of the year to score in the 7th. Sam Fuld made a great running catch in the 8th that helped keep the Cardinals out of a big inning. Bobby Howry gave up a run in the 8th but Ryan Dempster faced the minimum in the 9th for the save.
The Cubs finished their season series with the Cardinals with an 11-5 record and maintained their 1-game lead in the central division. Lou Piniella’s crew is 6 games over .500 for the year and finished an unusual 11-game road trip with a 7-4 record. Sunday was a game of inches. Matt Murton’s home run hit the netting attached to the foul pole in left. The netting was put on the foul pole in fair territory to remove any doubt if a ball is close so it would not be called a foul. Albert Pujols, on the other hand, hit three long balls at pivotal points of the game with multiple runners on base and each time the ball went just foul. While sometimes the ball does not bounce the Cubs way, on Sunday it did.
Lou Piniella has to figure out a way to get his team to drive runners home that are in scoring position. All 4 runs were scored with 2 outs, that is always a sign of a good team but leaving 14 on base is clearly not. As the season comes to an end they have to capitalize better than they have recent weeks. It is very hard to criticize a team that just won 3-of-4 from their biggest rival, but truth be told, Ryan Dempster and Bobby Howry should have been able to take the day off.
Geovany Soto made his case, once again, to receive more playing time. He caught a solid game and continued to impress at the plate. Soto doubled twice to go along with two singles. Soto is hitting .526 (10-for-19) with a .571 OBP after being recalled on September 1st with 4 doubles, a home run and 2 RBI’s in obviously very limited playing time. After Murton’s home run, Craig Monroe doubled to right, Soto followed with a swinging bunt and reached 1st. Ronny Cedeno followed with a single to center that scored Monroe.
Jason Marquis was the difference between a win and a loss on Sunday. With the offense struggling to drive in runs, Piniella’s staff has very little room for error. Marquis bent on a couple of occasions, but never broke and that was the key.
The Cubs open their final homestand of the regular season on Monday against the always-dangerous Cincinnati Reds. Rich Hill is scheduled to face Bronson Arroyo on Monday with Carlos Zambrano starting on 3 days rest on Tuesday against Aaron Harang.