Game One Hundred Fifty-Eight – Cubs 6 Mets 7
WP – Joe Smith (6-3) LP – Kevin Hart (2-2) Save – None
Lou Piniella’s bullpen could not hold the lead Micah Hoffpauir gave them on Thursday night in the rain. Hoffpauir turned in a career performance and could have earned a spot on the Cubs’ playoff roster with Daryle Ward struggling as a pinch hitter this season. Hoffpauir drove in 5 runs with a 5-for-5 night that included his first two big league home runs….his first, a solo home run off Pedro Martinez and his second, a 3-run shot that broke a 3-3 tie in the 7th off of southpaw Ricardo Rincon. Hoffpauir added a RBI double in the 3rd and was just a triple short of becoming the first Cubs’ rookie since Randy Hundley in 1966 to hit for the cycle.
Rich Harden was solid early in his final start of the regular season but struggled in his last three innings with his command. Harden threw only 37 pitches in the first three innings then tossed 62 in his last three innings and finished with 98 on the night, 49 for strikes. Harden was inconsistent and when he missed, he missed high in the zone. Harden walked 5 (three on 4 pitches) in 6 innings, struck out 4 but gave up only 3 runs, 2 earned, on 2 hits. Harden stopped throwing his changeup in the last two innings.
The Cubs took a 6-3 lead in the top of the 7th on Hoffpauir’s second home run but the Mets kept chipping away against the Cubs’ bullpen. Chad Gaudin gave up a run in an inning of work. Neal Cotts worked around a lead off single by David Wright by inducing a 5-6-3 double play off the bat of Carlos Delgado but gave up back-to-back 2-out singles to Carlos Beltran and Ryan Church.
Bobby Howry replaced Cotts and gave up the first RBI single of the season to a former Cub. Ramon Martinez cut the Cubs lead to 6-5 then Robinson Cancel tied the game on a single to right. Kosuke Fukudome’s throw was up the line, Ryan Church avoided Koyie Hill’s first tag then circled around to touch the plate. The bottom of the Mets’ lineup handed Bobby Howry his fourth blown save of the year.
Kevin Hart could not find the strike zone as well. While the only walk he gave up was intentional, Hart pitched from behind in the count to four of the five batters he faced. Jose Reyes lined a single to right on a 3-2 pitch to start the inning. Hart retired Daniel Murphy on a failed bunt attempt, struck out David Wright but allowed Reyes to steal 2nd on the swinging strikeout of Wright. After the walk to Delgado, Carlos Beltran lined a single of the glove of a diving Micah Hoffpauir on a 2-0 pitch to end the game.
The Cubs finished the season series against the Mets with a 4-2 record after splitting the last regular season series at Shea. Lou Piniella rested a majority of his everyday lineup and they almost pulled out a game on the road against a team battling to make the playoffs. Piniella must figure out how is going to arrange his pen in the post season and get them to throw strikes on a consistent basis.
With three games remaining on the schedule, all of the accomplishments of the 2008 Chicago Cubs will not include a 100-win campaign. Beginning on Friday in Milwaukee, it is time for the Cubs to get back to Keeping Their Eye on the Prize. Lou Piniella ran out his B-crew against Pedro Martinez in his first start against the Cubs since 1997. Micah Hoffpauir hit his first career home run in the opening frame after Pedro retired Felix Pie and Ryan Theriot with ease. Jim Edmonds followed with a walk. Mike Fontenot reached on a long single to right, Edmonds advanced to 3rd and scored on a single to right by Casey McGehee.
After a Micah Hoffpauir error, a stolen base, a ground out and a sacrifice fly by David Wright cut the Cubs lead to 2-1 (Wright tied the Mets’ All-Time record for RBI’s in a single season with his 124th of the year in the first inning. Mike Piazza set the mark in 1999), Ryan Theriot led off the 3rd with a walk and scored on a double just to the left of straight away center by Hoffpauir.
The Cubs managed two walks and a double in the 3rd but Pedro Martinez recorded all three outs on called strike three.
Ryan Church tied the game in the 4th on a 2-out double to right off of Rich Harden. Harden issued a 1-out walk to David Wright then a 2-out walk to Carlos Beltran and fell behind Church 3-1 before surrendering the double.
Felix Pie started the 3-run 7th with a single to right. Ryan Theriot walked and Jerry Manuel replaced Pedro Martinez with Ricardo Rincon. Hoffpauir hit the first offering from Rincon over the wall in left that gave his team a 6-3 lead.
Ron Santo and generations of the Faithful will be very happy when Shea Stadium is no longer the home of the New York Mets….the Cubs could have another series there and if they do maybe they will be able to shake a few of the old ghosts.
Ryan Dempster is scheduled to start the final series of the regular season on Friday night at Miller Park. The upcoming weekend figures to be one of the most exciting finishes to a baseball season in recent memory. The Mets are just a game back of the Phillies in the East. The Mets and Brewers are tied for the NL Wild Card with the Astros only 3 1/2 back with no room for error….or a win by the Mets or Brewers.