September 19th, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
Cincinnati 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0   2 6 1
Chicago 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 X   3 9 2
W – B. Howry (6-7) L – G. Majewski (0-3) S – None
Homeruns: A. Dunn (40) E. Encarnacion (15) A. Soriano (28) G. Soto (2)

Box Score

This pennant race stuff is pretty taxing on the fan. Each loss seems like it is devastating and even one loss seems like an extended losing streak. This is a huge reason why a Cubs win tonight feels so good. Tomorrow the Cubs have their first day off in over three weeks. Can you imagine how miserable it would have been to carry a two game losing streak into the day off? Think about all of the second guessing about starting Zambrano and Lilly on short rest if the Cubs had fallen to the Reds tonight. Feel all of the angst that we would have felt if the Cubs lost another series to the Reds. “If we can’t beat the Reds we are in trouble.” “We have to play them in the final series of the year.” “We are behind the Brewers in the loss column.” On and on and on. Well, just STOP. Stop it all…Stop as in STOPPER…as in our STOPPER Ted Lilly. Lilly pitched and gets his twentieth quality start of the season. He does not get the win, but he deserved it. More importantly, the Cubs did get the win, and we go into the day off with a one game lead and visions of the playoffs dancing in our heads.

Ted Lilly is 9-1 in games following a loss this year. He will not move to 10-1 after tonight’s game, but he might as well have. Lilly was not lights out, especially at first, but he was very good. He only gave up two runs, both solo shots from Edgar Encarnacion and Adam Dunn. Dunn’s bomb should have counted for three, crashing way out onto Sheffield. Sometimes when I am away from a TV I watch innings on a computer generated gameday on MLB.com. This feature shows a red dot where the balls land on a play. Lilly had a few balls in the first few innings that had the red dot placed at or even on the wall. The Encarnacion homer was way in the stands. The Dunn homer was probably off the chart. Adam Dunn has now hit 40 home runs for four straight years. Lilly went seven strong innings: 7IP 5H 2ER 1BB 8K…STOPPER. He pitched out of a big jam in the seventh striking out two men with runners at the corners and only one out.

Bob Howry pitched the eighth and ninth picking up the win. Howry pitched two innings because Ryan Dempster was sick and unavailable for tonight’s game. A game saving play happened in the eighth inning. With the game tied at two and with two outs, Brandon Phillips singled to left. Norris Hopper tried to score the go ahead run but was thrown out at home by another outfield assist from Alfonso Soriano.

Soriano led off the game with a home run, on the first pitch.That was his ninth home run in 20 games. Cubs minor league player of the year Geovany Soto had a solo home run in the fifth. In the eighth inning Ryan Theriot led off the inning with a base hit and advanced to second on a Ken Griffey error. Derrek Lee got a base hit and Theriot was held at third. (On the play Ken Griffey pulled up with a bad strain…probably ending his year). Matt Murton got a base hit to score Theriot- though it was recorded as a fielder’s choice because Lee thought the ball had been caught and did not advance to second. The Cubs had nine hits but only scored three runs…fortunately that was all they needed.

Playoff Push
The Brewers lost in Houston, giving the Cubs a one game division lead again. Derrick Turnbow gave up two runs and the Astros led the game 4-2 going into the ninth. In the Brewers’ ninth Rickie Weeks hit a two run shot to right field to tie the game. On the play Hunter Pence crashed full speed into the wall chasing after the fly ball. In the bottom of the tenth that same Hunter Pence drove in the winning run and the Astros won 5-4.

The Brewers now travel to Atlanta for four games. They are awaiting word on Ben Sheets who left yesterday’s game in the second with a strained hamstring. They are not sure when or if Sheets will return. I personally think he should rest his legs until next year. “Ben, you have a family to think about.”
As it stands right now the Brewers will face:
Lance Cormier
Tim Hudson
John Smoltz
Jo-Jo Reyes (I’m not making this up)

That is unless the Braves decide to roll over like the Astros. Hey, wait a minute! Didn’t the Braves used to be from Milwaukee? We better keep an eye on this.

The Cubs face three lefties in the Pittsburgh series:
Friday: Paul Maholm vs. Jason Marquis
Saturday: John Van Benschoten vs. Rich Hill
Sunday: Tom Gorzellany vs. Carlos Zambrano

The Cubs have won 8 of 11. It doesn’t seem like it, does it?

Side Notes

There was an interesting article in the Sun Times that said that the Astros GM talked with Jim Hendry last week about what they were going to with the rotation. Roy Oswalt left to be with his wife who was going to be induced for labor. The Astros have dropped Woody Williams from the rotation to allow their rookies to get more starts. Cecil Cooper also called Bud Selig to discuss the rotation as well.

Piniella has announced that Jason Marquis will be the pitched in game 163 if we must play the Brewers to break a tie at the end of the year. I might be crazy but I like Marquis’ mental make up for this type of game. Ideally, Lilly would pitch…but I like Marquis as the second option. This bonus game would be played at Wrigley if needed. For old times sake the Cubs could have Steve Trachsel pitch this game since he won the bonus game in 1998. Remember Rod Beck coming in for the save in that game? He was tired from pitching so much down the stretch and was throwing frisbees. Effective frisbees that won the game. Long live home run memories of Gary Gaetti. We rode that momentum into the playoffs where we…nevermind.

In another instance that raises my thoughts about Lou Piniella, a San Francisco Chronicle article quotes umpire Bruce Froemming as saying that the Lou tirade earlier this year was “definitely premeditated.” Take a look at it if you can, but Froemming implies that Lou prepared them for the possibility days before. Think back about how this might have saved the season in some ways. The day before Z and Barrett were pounding each other in the face and everyone was talking about how the team was crumbling. One day later its’ all about crazy uncle Lou and his explosion. Topic changed…year changed.

The other day I listened to Lou’s post game press conference. He was talking about how Rich Hill’s velocity dropped a lot in his final inning the other night. I have heard him talking about stats and decisions based on numbers all year. I can’t remember a Cub manager who paid attention to these details. Today an ESPN article about Lou said that he spends every plane ride reading numbers and charts and planning out how to best take advantage of the numbers and match ups. It is nice to have a manager that you feel is outmanaging the other guy.

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