Game One Hundred Sixty-One – Cubs 8 Astros 3
WP – Carlos Zambrano (11-6) LP – J.A. Happ (6-4) Save – None
Carlos Zambrano finished his Twenty-Ten season on a positive note. Zambrano picked up his eighth straight win (8-0 in last ten starts) and finished the lost season with an 11-6 record. Zambrano dominated the Astros for six innings on Saturday night. Z tossed six scoreless, kept his pitch count low (75 total after six) and recorded all five of his strikeouts between the fourth and sixth innings.
An error and a miscue by Bobby Scales opened the door for Houston in the seventh and ended Zambrano’s season. Z’s final line: three runs, two earned, on three hits with three walks, five strikeouts and a wild pitch in 6 1/3 innings. Zambrano threw 92 pitches, 59 for strikes.
Big Z posted an 8-0 record after returning to the rotation with a 1.24 ERA.
The Cubs offense was very patient against J.A. Happ and scored all eight runs off the young southpaw. Happ struggled with his command and walked five batters in the three innings … and the Cubs took advantage.
Marlon Byrd had a big night in the penultimate game of the season. Byrd drove in the Cubs’ first run with a fielder’s choice ground out in the first. Byrd added a two-run single in the second and was along for the ride on Aramis Ramirez’s grand slam in the fourth. Byrd finished the game 2-for-5 with a run scored and three RBI.
Aramis Ramirez had the big hit of the night … a grand slam in the fourth to close the book on J.A. Happ. Ramirez hit his first slam in over two years and the ninth of his career. Ramirez took over the team lead with his 25th home run of the season.
Starlin Castro recorded another multi-hit game and finished the night hitting an even .300. Castro notched his 31st double of the season in the first and scored the Cubs second run on a double by Alfonso Soriano. Castro was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, two runs scored and was hit by a pitch.
Alfonso Soriano hit his 40th two-bagger of the year in the first inning on Saturday night. Soriano notched his 40th double of the season for the fifth time in his career … the first since 2007.
Jeff Baker, in what could have been in his last game with the Cubs, went 1-for-3 with a walk and three runs scored hitting out of the lead-off spot.
The Cubs finally won a series against the Astros this season (7-10, 1-5 in six series) with Saturday’s win. The Cubs have won eight of 12 series under Mike Quade and Saturday’s victory improved the Cubs mark to 24-12 under Mike Quade (17-4 on the road). With one left on the schedule, the Cubs have a 75-86 record and are tied for fourth in the division with the Houston Astros … The only negative from Saturday night was the Cubs scoreless innings streak was snapped in the seventh inning. The Cubs string of 27 innings in a row without allowing a run was their longest such streak since 2005.
The Cubs jumped out to an early lead in large part to showing a lot of patience against J.A. Happ. Jeff Baker started the game with a walk and advanced to third on a ground rule double to right by Starlin Castro … the rookie’s 31st two-bagger of the season.
Marlon Byrd grounded out to short for the first out but Baker scored on the play … 1-0 Cubs.
Aramis Ramirez walked to put runners on first and second with one out. Xavier Nady struck out looking on a very close inside pitch. With two outs, Alfonso Soriano notched his 40th double of the year. Soriano plated Castro with his drive to the corner in left. Ramirez lumbered into third and both were stranded when Micah Hoffpauir struck out swinging to end the inning.
The Cubs took a 2-0 lead on Happ and made the very talented southpaw throw 34 pitches in the opening frame.
Carlos Zambrano retired the Astros rather quickly in the home half of the first, 1-2-3 on nine pitches, and got his offense back to the dugout.
Carlos Zambrano worked a walk, his second in as many starts, and motored to second on a bloop single to left center by Jeff Baker. Castro walked to load the bases for Marlon Byrd.
Byrd delivered again, this time with a single into left center that plated Zambrano and Baker … 4-0 Cubs. With runners on first and second with one out, Aramis Ramirez and Xavier Nady both flied out to right to end the inning.
J.A. Happ took the hill in the fourth after throwing 75 pitches in the first three innings. Baker reached on a throwing error by Chris Johnson on a routine grounder to third. Castro recorded his second hit of the game with a swinging bunt that ended up about nine feet in front of home plate. Happ and Johnson both misplayed the ball looking for the other one to make a play.
Marlon Byrd reached on a bloop single to center … Brian Bogusevic attempted a diving catch on a ball that Michael Bourn would have made look routine.
With the bases loaded and no outs, Aramis Ramirez launched a 1-0 offering from Happ into the Crawford Boxes. Ramirez’s first grand slam of the season gave the Cubs an 8-0 lead.
J.A. Happ departed after allowing eight runs, seven earned, on eight hits with five walks and three strikeouts in three-plus innings. Happ threw 89 pitches in his worst outing in an Astros’ uniform.
Henry Villar replaced Happ and served up batting practice to Soriano and Hoffpauir. Both players lined out but hit the hardest two balls of the inning.
Carlos Zambrano was in full control until the seventh inning. Zambrano had thrown only 75 pitches, struck out five with one walk … and more importantly he ran his scoreless innings streak to 19. But an error and a miscue by Bobby Scales opened up the door for the Astros.
Hunter Pence reached to start the inning on a throwing error by Bobby Scales. Scales replaced Aramis Ramirez in the seventh and fielded the grounder at third. Scales airmailed his throw for the second game in a row … and Pence ended up at second. Zambrano was not the same following the error.
Carlos Lee walked and Zambrano uncorked a wild pitch with Brian Bogusevic at the plate. Pence advanced to third. Zambrano ended up walking Bogusevic to load the bases … with no outs.
Chris Johnson hit a tailor-made double play grounder to Scales … but he bobbled the ball and had to settle with beating Lee to third for the first out. Pence scored … 8-1 Cubs.
Brett Wallace ripped Zambrano’s first pitch into left center. Bogusevic and Johnson scored and chased Zambrano from the game. Zambrano appeared to be a little agetated and looked toward Scales as he left the field.
James Russell retired pinch-hitter Jason Michaels on a deep fly to center.
Russell hit Matt Downs on a 0-2 pitch but retired Anderson Hernandez on a ground out to short to end the inning.
After seven … 8-3 Cubs and another good outing for Carlos Zambrano.
Justin Berg and Scott Maine kept the Astros off the board in the eighth. Berg hit Carlos Lee in the back … and Lee was not very happy.
Q’s offense actually made a little noise against Matt Lindstrom in the ninth … but as usual they could not score a single run off the hard throwing right-hander. Scales led off with a single and advanced to second on a bloop single to right by Soriano. Hoffpauir hit into a 4-6 force and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Koyie Hill walked but Brad Snyder hit for Scott Maine and struck out looking to end the inning.
Marcos Mateo pitched a perfect ninth to close it out for Zambrano.
161 down … one to go.
Ryan Dempster will face Nelson Figueroa in the season finale on Sunday afternoon.