Game One Hundred Fourteen – Cubs 11 Astros 7
WP – Bobby Howry (4-4, BS 3) LP – Chris Sampson (5-4) Save – None
What a day and what a game at Wrigley Field on Tuesday afternoon. A combined 18 runs on 25 hits were scored between two long time rivals in an afternoon that can simply be described as a hitter’s day at the Friendly Confines. The Cubs offense jumped on Wandy Rodriguez early and often and before the 3rd inning began Lou Piniella’s crew was up by a 6-1 score. But the Cubs were unable to tack on to their lead and the always dangerous Astros’ offense, led by Carlos Lee, scored 6 unanswered and led 7-6 when Reed Johnson stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 7th inning.
Johnson led off the inning with a single to right center and advanced to 3rd on a double to right by Mark DeRosa on a ball that was misplayed by Hunter Pence. Kosuke Fukudome hit a deep fly to center that scored Johnson to tie the game at 7. Daryle Ward pinch hit for Henry Blanco and was intentionally walked by Cecil Cooper. Lou Piniella went to his bench for Mike Fontenot but once ‘Little Babe Ruth‘ was announced, Cooper went to his pen for southpaw Wesley Wright….and Piniella countered with Geovany Soto, but he struck out for the second out of the inning.
Cecil Cooper brought in Doug Brocail, as a part of a double switch with Lance Berkman, to face Alfonso Soriano. With DeRosa at 2nd, pinch-runner Jason Marquis at 1st and 2 outs, Soriano quickly fell behind 0-2 before looking at the third pitch in the at bat. Alfonso Soriano then hit the next offering from Brocail into the left field bleachers for his 20th home run of the year and his second career hit off of Doug Brocail. Soriano made a curtain call as the Cubs mounted another comeback at home in a year full of dramatics at the old ballpark.
Ryan Theriot walked, stole second and scored on Derrek Lee’s fourth hit of the game to give the Cubs a 4 run lead after 7 innings. This version of the Chicago Cubs never appears to quit.
Rich Harden was lights out early on and allowed only an unearned run in the first 4 innings. Harden gave up a pair in the 5th after a home run by Ty Wigginton and a 2-out RBI triple by Kaz Matsui. Harden kept elevating pitches and surrendered his second long ball of the afternoon in the 6th….a 2-run shot to Geoff Blum that cut the Cubs lead to 6-5.
Bobby Howry replaced Harden with 2 outs in the 6th after Harden gave up a 2-out single to Darin Erstad and issued his first walk of the afternoon to Humberto Quintero. Howry retired Mark Loretta to end the inning.
Howry took the mound to start the 7th and gave up a leadoff single to Kaz Masui. Two outs later and with 1st base open, Lou Piniella made the slow walk to the mound before Carlos Lee stepped to the plate. After a short discussion, the decision to pitch to Lee was soon regretted. Lee launched the first offering from Howry into the left field bleachers to give the Astros a brief lead….Lee’s home run was the 11th given up by Howry on the season in 54 1/3 innings and Lee’s 26th career long ball off of Cubs’ pitching.
Kerry Wood made his first appearance since July 11th and was effective as he knocked off the rust and Carlos Marmol retired the Astros in order in the 9th to end the game.
A day after being shutout in a rain shortened 8-inning game, the big bats came out on Tuesday afternoon. Derrek Lee (4-for-5 with a double, 2 runs scored and a RBI) and Alfonso Soriano (3-for-5 with a double, a home run, 2 runs scored and 4 RBI’s) led the way, but Reed Johnson was once again in the middle of the action (1-for-3 with a run scored and a RBI) and Mark DeRosa (3-for-5 with 2 doubles, a run scored and 3 RBI’s) knocked in the first two runs of the game with a bloop double to right. What was lost following the win was the sacrifice fly by Kosuke Fukudome that tied the game.
Tuesday was a total team effort….
The Cubs picked up a much needed win against the Astros on Tuesday and improved to 22 games over .500 for the second time this season with their 42nd win of the year at Wrigley. One of the many keys down the stretch for the Cubs is Rich Harden. He has shown how dominant he can actually be. Harden was up in the zone for a majority of the afternoon and the Astros’ offense took advantage of his lack of command. Harden gave up 5 runs, 4 earned, on 8 hits with a walk and 8 strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings on 93 pitches. Lou Piniella stated after the game that Harden told him he was tired during a visit to the mound. Piniella added that was the first time since Harden joined the Cubs he mentioned fatigue while he was on the mound. While Harden’s bunt single in the 2nd inning added to the big inning, it probably had a negative effect on his performance on the mound.
The Cubs did not waste any time jumping on Wandy Rodriguez in the 1st inning. After Alfonso Soriano flied out to center, Ryan Theriot walked on 4 pitches and advanced to 3rd on a double to left by Derrek Lee (the rest on Monday night was apparently exactly what Derrek Lee needed). Aramis Ramirez tapped out to the mound on the first pitch.
With runners on 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs, Rodriguez hit Reed Johnson with a pitch to load the bases. Mark DeRosa worked the count to 2-2 then blooped a double down the right field line and drove in Theriot and Lee with the first two runs. Kosuke Fukudome flied out to left to end the inning.
Henry Blanco started the 4-run rally in the 2nd inning with a double to left. Rich Harden attempted to sacrifice Blanco to 3rd but reached after he beat out the throw to 1st by Wandy Rodriguez. Alfonso Soriano followed with a single to left, his first career hit off of Rodriguez (0-for-7). Blanco scored and the Cubs were up by a score of 3-1.
After a failed bunt attempt by Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee blooped a single into shallow right to load the bases with 1 out. Aramis Ramirez looked at four straight out of the zone and Harden trotted in from 3rd with the Cubs’ fourth run.
Darin Erstad made a great leaping catch in left center before crashing into the wall to take an extra base hit, and at least two RBI’s away from Reed Johnson. Soriano tagged and scored and the Cubs were up 5-1. With runners on 1st and 2nd and 2 outs, Mark DeRosa drove in his third run of the game with a single to left that plated Derrek Lee. Kosuke Fukudome ended the inning with a fly out to the track in left.
The Cubs’ offense beat the Astros at their own game and improved to 6-0 since July 23rd in games started by left-handed pitchers. Before Tuesday afternoon, the Astros bullpen had not allowed a run in 13 1/3 consecutive innings….on Tuesday, they surrendered 5 in the 7th inning.
Jason Marquis is scheduled to face Brandon Backe in the third and final game of the series on Wednesday afternoon.