Game One Hundred Sixty – Cubs 7 Brewers 3
WP – Ted Lilly (17-9) LP – Ben Sheets (13-9) Save – None
Lou Piniella’s crew picked up their 97th win of the year behind a tremendous outing from Ted Lilly. After a horrible start to the season Lilly became the first Cub lefty to post 17 wins in a season since Ken Holtzman in 1970. Lilly followed up his 1-hit gem against the Astros at Miller Park, the last time he pitched in Milwaukee, by going into the 7th with a no-hitter against the Brewers on Saturday afternoon. Only two base runners reached in the first 6 innings, an error by Ronny Cedeno in the 2nd and Lilly walked Mike Cameron on 4 pitches with two outs in the 6th. Lilly even added a ground rule double, his first extra base hit of the year in the 2nd and just missed hitting a grand slam in 3rd. Lilly’s outing was truly a tune-up as he dominated a very dangerous Brewers lineup fighting to make the post-season.
‘The Bulldog‘ allowed 1 run on 2 hits with a walk and 4 strikeouts in 6+ innings on 80 pitches.
Daryle Ward, Mike Fontenot and Kosuke Fukudome supplied the Cubs RBI’s on Saturday afternoon against Ben Sheets and company. Daryle Ward gave the Cubs a 2-run lead in the 1st inning with home run to right, his 4th of the year. ‘Little Babe Ruth‘ chased Ben Sheets from the game in the 3rd with a bases loaded 2 run single to right. Mike Fontenot added his third RBI of the game in the 9th with a single to left. Kosuke Fukudome gave the Cubs a little breathing room in the 9th after the bullpen allowed a 4-1 lead to be trimmed to 4-3. Fukudome hit his first home run since August 24th, a 2-run shot off of Salomon Torres that gave the Cubs a 6-3 lead.
Carlos Marmol bailed out Lilly in the 7th after a he gave up his first two hits of the day. J.J. Hardy drove in the first Brewers run off of Marmol with a sacrifice fly to center. Marmol settled down and retired the next two hitters he faced to end the inning.
Jason Marquis struggled in his first relief appearance of the season. Lou Piniella stated before the game he wanted to get Marquis a little work out of the pen and unfortunately Marquis could not throw strikes. After issuing a 1-out walk to pinch hitter Russell Branyan, he gave up back-to-back singles to Mike Cameron and Craig Counsell that cut the Cubs lead to 4-2. Marquis then hit Ryan Braun to load the bases. After Piniella chuckled at Marquis, he replaced him with Neal Cotts. Marquis gave up 2 runs on 2 hits with a walk and a hit batsman in a third of an inning.
After a misplayed ball in shallow left center by Ronny Cedeno allowed the Brewers to score their third run of the game, Piniella brought in Michael Wuertz to face J.J. Hardy and Corey Hart with the bases loaded and one out. Wuertz responded with one his best outings of the season.
Wuertz induced a grounder to 3rd off the bat of J.J. Hardy that Casey McGehee made a fine play on to cut Counsell down at the plate. Hart then grounded out to short to end the inning….5 pitches, 4 strikes and 2 outs for Michael Wuertz. Kerry Wood pitched a perfect 9th in a non-save situation.
The Cubs 97th win of the year is the most for the organization since they posted a 98-win season in 1945. The victory also guaranteed the Cubs the season series against the Brewers. After dropping the first two, they have won 9 of 14 and are 9-7 versus Milwaukee with one big one left on Sunday…. Ted Lilly set the tone for this game early. He threw strikes, had very good command all afternoon and worked quickly. Simply put, Lilly dictated the pace and the Brewers were stuck guessing most of the game. Lilly did not allow a baserunner from the 2nd inning until 2 outs in the 6th and one of the hits he was credited with should have been caught….Felix Pie and Kosuke Fukudome let a high fly ball to right center in the 7th off the bat of Prince Fielder to fall in between them. In their defense they were playing deep, but those balls must be caught.
The Brewers lone run off Lilly came in the 7th after Ryan Braun led off the inning with a double to left….the first hit allowed by Lilly. Reed Johnson appeared to slip a little when he broke for the ball (the groundskeeper at Miller Park should stop watering the outfield grass. Hoffpauir slipped a couple of times on Friday and Corey Hart did as well on Saturday…so much for home field advantage). Braun cruised into 2nd and advanced to 3rd on the misplayed fly ball by Prince Fielder.
Lou Piniella lifted Lilly and brought in Carlos Marmol to face J.J. Hardy. While allowing the inherited runner to score was not good, Marmol kept the Brewers out of a big inning by getting Hardy out on the sacrifice fly. Corey Hart then flied out to center and Rickie Weeks popped out to right to end the inning….12 pitches, 3 outs and one run allowed.
Jason Marquis might have worked his way off the playoff roster on Saturday. Marquis performance was very similar to the one he had on the last day of the 2007 season in Cincinnati. The Brewers lit up Marquis and he had one of his bad innings. Marquis has pitched very effectively down the stretch for Lou Piniella, but outings like Saturday in the post-season will result in more damage the Cubs might not be able to recover from….especially late in games against the Phillies and Dodgers bullpens. Marquis made the game interesting but both Neal Cotts and Michael Wuertz did their jobs.
The Cubs ‘B-Team‘ jumped on an obviously injured Ben Sheets early and chased him from the game with 1-out in the 3rd inning….in possibly his last start as a Brewer. Ronny Cedeno reached on a 1-out single to right and scored on a 2-out, 2-run homer off the bat of Daryle Ward. Sheets’ velocity was down and not only was he struggling with his command but he was throwing most breaking stuff….a far cry from the pitcher that took the mound on Opening Day.
Eight of the fifteen batters Sheets faced reached but it was an error by Bill Hall that opened up the 2-run 3rd inning. Ronny Cedeno reached on the error and Micah Hoffpauir walked. After a fly out to center by Daryle Ward, Reed Johnson walked to load the bases. Mike Fontenot then lined a single to right on a 0-1 pitch that plated Cedeno and Hoffpauir.
Mark DiFelice replaced Sheets and retired Casey McGehee on a fly out to right center. Henry Blanco loaded the bases with an infield single. Rickie Weeks made a tremendous stop on the 3rd base side of 2nd that kept the ball in the infield and loaded the bases for Ted Lilly. Lilly lined out to right to end the inning but two pitches earlier just missed hitting a grand slam to right….
The Cubs were unable to tack on until the 9th inning. Ryan Theriot pinch-hit for Michael Wuertz and reached on an infield single to the hole at short….Hardy got to the ball but was unable to make a throw. After squaring to bunt on the first offering from Salomon Torres, Kosuke Fukudome gave his team a 3-run lead with one swing. Fukudome’s 10th of the year came at the right time as the Cubs’ right fielder has hit much better over the last week.
Ronny Cedeno followed with a single to right on a 1-2 pitch from Torres that chased him from the game. Mitch Stetter retired Hoffpauir on a pop up to 2nd but walked Felix Pie on 4 pitches. Todd Coffey replaced Stetter and gave up the single to left by Mike Fontenot….7-3 Cubs.
The Cubs will send Angel Guzman to the bump in the final game of the regular season on Sunday against CC Sabathia. The Brewers and Mets are tied for the NL Wild Card with one game left. It is simple….if the Brewers get in the Cubs will face the Dodgers in the NLDS, if the Mets get in the Cubs will see Johan Santana and company in the NLDS.
On a side note….the recap’s title goes out with a big tip of the hat to Paul Newman who passed away on Saturday.