Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cubs Grind Out 4-3 Win

OK, 1-2-3 for J-Mick in the first on eight pitches. Jeff Samardzija gave up a leadoff knock to Brock Holt. Starling Marte bunted him over, and Cutch got beaned. Garrett Jones walked on four pitches to load the sacks for Pedro. He went fishing and lined an 0-2 pitch away that was down and headed for the dirt to right center for a two-run knock. Presley went down swinging at 3-2 gas; it took Barmes just three pitches to swing through a heater. Still, nice start for the Bucs, up 2-0.

The lead was cut in half pretty quickly when Alfonso Soriano went yard to left center off a heater to open the second. After an out, Welington Castillo got a 1-2 hook on the inside black, knee high and clobbered it for a double. A groundout moved him to third and brought up Samardzija, batting eighth for some reason. He chopped a bouncer to third, and it ended 2-1 with the Bucs coming to the plate. It was a quick visit; they went down in order, with Barajas' shot to the track being the only noisy out.

Tony Campana opened the third with a knock to center. David Dejesus got a 2-0 heater and singled to right to put Cubs on the corners. Luis Valbuena yanked a borderline 3-2 pitch to short for a 6-4-3 DP, tying the game. Anthony Rizzo got plunked to bring up Soriano, who K'ed this time. After Rizzo was drilled, both benches were warned. It should be calm now; both three hole guys are wearing bruises. That's not all that's square; it's also 2-2 now. J-Sam was hitting 97 in the third and had a quiet inning against the Bucs 2-3-4 hitters.

In the fourth, Castro was behind on a low and tight heater, but got enough to send it to right for a knock and two pitches later he stole second. J-Mick bore down and got the next three Bruins routinely. Pedro's having no trouble with Samardzija; he led off by bombing a double to right. That opp went by the boards quickly when Presley tapped back to the mound and El Toro was caught stutter-stepping to third. The Bucs were back on the field two fly balls later; kinda pity Pedro wasn't on third.

Campana started the fifth with a ground rule double to left, and is the fourth straight lead-off batter to reach off J-Mick. He swiped third three pitches later; the stolen bases are really getting to be little-league even if Campana can fly (and he can). DeJesus walked on a full-count fastball, and that's tough considering plate ump Scott Perry's very generous strike zone. Valbuena lifted a heater to left, deep enough to bring in Campana. He finished off the Cubs, surviving a deep shot to center by Soriano that Cutch gloved. But the Cubs have nibbled away and taken a 3-2 lead. The Bucs went down quietly again against Samardzija.

J-Mick walked Castro on four pitches to start the sixth, missing pretty badly with all of them. With an out, Barney fell behind 0-2, took a ball, fouled off a couple and singled to center on a belt-high, 89 MPH heater. J-Sam bunted them up a station. J-Mick got the hook after 90 pitches and 5-2/3 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with two walks and two K's. Tony Watson came on to face the en fuego Campana, who he got to bounce to third and keep the game in hand. Samardzija cruised through the middle of the Bucco order.

Valbuena drew a one out walk on five pitches in the seventh; the only strike was a gift call. Rizzo, much like Pedro earlier in the game, somehow pulled a first pitch slider down and off the plate to right to put runners on the corners. That brought on a call for Jared Hughes. He threw Soriano, who loves low balls, six ankle-high sinkers, getting him to swing through three. Rizzo was off on the 3-2 pitch and stole second, his third swipe of the campaign. Hughes got Castro to bounce out, and the Bucs dodged another bullet. With two away, Castro's throwing error put Hot Rod at second in the Buc half, and Jeff Clement grabbed a stick while Harrison took Rod's place at second. Clement came through, ripping a long single off the Clemente Wall to plate J-Hay and tie the game. Holt flew out, but after seven it was a new ballgame at 3-3.

Jason Grilli climbed the hill for the eighth with The Fort as his battery partner. Castilla led off with a single to left; what is it with the first batter? Barney's bouncer to third moved Castilla to second, and another grounder to the hot corner kept him there. And it was by Samardzija; guess that Dale Sveum is giving him a chance to go for the win in his last start of the year (because of inning count).

Campana drew a 3-2 walk, and DeJesus took a first pitch slider to right to score Castilla and move Campana to third. Presley tossed a lollipop home to challenge Castilla, who is the catcher. DeJesus, of course, stole second ASAP, but Grilled Cheese got Valbuena looking, thank you, Scott Perry. The Bucs went down without a peep. Samardzija is still bringing it at 97 and making sure everyone knows it.

Chris Resop toed the rubber in the ninth. He got the first two outs easily before bopping Castro on the wrist with a 1-1 heater. But stop the presses - he was caught stealing to end the frame. J-Sam kept dealin' - Pedro bounced out to first, Presley fanned swinging at a splitter in the dirt, and Gaby Sanchez flew out to left.

No problem figuring out the Cubs victories - they've outplayed the Bucs. Pittsburgh started their two aces, and surrendered 16 runs on 22 hits; the Pirates put up five runs on eight hits. If ya can't pitch or hit, well, it's gonna be a long couple of nights at the old ballyard. Neil Walker and Travis Snider can't get well quickly enough.

Chris Rusin takes on Jeff Locke tomorrow afternoon.

  • Despite their recent play, the Bucs are still hot and heavy in the race. The Pirates are 1-1/2 games behind the Cardinals, which have the second wild card spot, and 1/2 game behind LA for the last playoff position. 
  • Jeff Samardzija tossed 120 pitches tonight and went the distance for the first time in his career in his last start of the year; the Cubs are shutting him down after 175 innings. It was also the first complete game by a Cub pitcher this season.
  • The Cubs have won back-to-back road games for first time since July 23-24 - and that was also against the Bucs at PNC Park.
  • 35,661 came out to catch the Pirates and Zambelli brothers.
  • One reason runs are hard to come by: The Bucs haven't homered in five straight games for the first time this season.

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