Game Fourteen – Cubs 6, Rangers 2
WP – Carlos Villanueva (1-0) LP – Alexi Ogando (2-1) Save – None
Carlos Villanueva picked up his first win of the season with his third straight quality start. Villanueva was sensational once again and made only two mistakes over his seven innings of work. Villanueva served up two home runs, one to Ian Kinsler in the fourth and the other to Nelson Cruz in the seventh. All three runs allowed by Carlos Villanueva over his first three starts have come via solo home runs. Villanueva faced the minimum the first time through the lineup and surrendered only two hits after the second inning. Villanueva limited the Rangers to two runs on four hits, two home runs, with a walk and six strikeouts on 87 pitches, 55 for strikes.
The Cubs defense stepped up behind Villanueva on Thursday. The Cubs turned a pair of double plays in the first two frames while Darwin Barney and Luis Valbuena made difficult plays look routine.
James Russell and Carlos Marmol retired all six batters they faced in the eighth and ninth innings to close it out.
As Dale Sveum said after the game, it is not about batting average but about on base and slugging percentage. The Cubs pounded out 13 hits, nine for extra bases, hit back-to-back jacks for the first time in the third inning and walked three times.
Starlin Castro (1-for-3 with a double, two walks, a stolen base and a run scored) not only walked for the first time this season, extended his hitting streak to 10 games and collected the 100th double of his career in the sixth inning but he was on board for Anthony Rizzo’s mammoth shot in the third inning. Rizzo’s fourth longball of the season travel 475 feet … the longest home run hit in the majors this season. Rizzo hit the ball hard all afternoon and finished the game 1-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and a HBP.
Alfonso Soriano (1-for-5 with a home run) followed Rizzo’s shot with his first homer of the season in the third. Welington Castillo (4-for-4 with a double and a run scored) collected the first four-hit game of his career while Luis Valbuena (2-for-4 with a double and two RBI) drove in a pair of runs, including the first run of the game.
David DeJesus (2-for-4 with a double, a triple, a walk and a run scored) reached base three times and scored on a wild pitch following his first triple of the season in the third inning. Nate Schierholtz (1-for-4 with a double and a run scored) doubled and scored the first run of the game in the second inning.
The Cubs ended their three-game losing streak with one of their better played games of the season on a very wet day at the old ballyard.
The Cubs got on the board in the second inning after Carlos Villanueva faced the minimum in the first inning on just five pitches, four for strikes, and then again in the second inning on just 13 pitches, nine for strikes. Nate Schierholtz doubled into the right field corner with one out in the second .Welington Castillo collected his first hit, a single to right. Schierholtz held at third with one out. Luis Valbuena then pulled a 3-2 pitch into right that plated Schierholtz, 1-0 Cubs. Darwin Barney could not check his swing on a 3-2 pitch and was called out. Villanueva stepped in with runners on second and third and was caught looking to end the inning … the fourth straight at bat dating back to his start against the Giants in which he hit with two on and two outs.
Villanueva retired the Rangers in order quickly in the third.
David DeJesus led off the Cubs’ third with a triple to right. A 1-0 pitch to Castro skipped past Pierzynski. DeJesus scored, 2-0 Cubs. Starlin Castro walked for the second time in the ballgame.
Anthony Rizzo stepped in and launched a 2-1 pitch from Ogando to the back of the bleachers in right center. The ball traveled 475 feet and the Cubs took a 4-0 lead.
Alfonso Soriano followed Rizzo with his first dinger of the season … and the back-to-back jacks gave the Cubs a 5-0 lead. Schierholtz grounded out to second for the first out. Ron Washington then went to his pen and replaced Alexi Ogando with Derek Lowe. Welington Castillo singled to right but Valbuena hit into a 3-6 fielder’s choice and Barney grounded out to second to end the inning.
The Rangers got on the board in the fourth. Ian Kinsler hit a solo shot off Villanueva to start the inning. Villanueva did not let the wind-blown homer phase him. Villanueva retired Andrus, Beltre and Cruz in order to end the inning … Villanueva needed 46 pitches, 32 for strikes, to complete four innings.
The Cubs got the run back in the fifth. Welington Castillo reached on a bloop single to center … his third hit of the game to the third different spot in the outfield. The wind blew the ball back from right field into center and fooled Kinsler and Martin. Luis Valbuena followed with a double to right. David Bell sent Castillo home and he scored. Barney grounded out to third and Villanueva struck out looking to end the inning.
Nelson Cruz made it 6-2 in the seventh with his second longball of the season.
The Cubs had chances throughout the game to add to their lead but were unable to. The Cubs finished the game 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base.
The Cubs completed their first homestand with a 3-5 record and two games that will have to be made up.
The Cubs begin a 10-game, three city road trip on Friday with the first of three in Milwaukee … Jeff Samardzija against Marco Estrada in game one.