For 7 innings, it looked like it was going to be another frustrating, disappointing loss for the Cubs on Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field. The Cubs trailed the Pirates 3-1 and despite numerous scoring chances they could never seem to come through with the clutch hit – as had happened so many times this season. It all turned around in the bottom of the 7th inning after a lead-off walk to Mike Fontenot. After reliever Evan Meek quickly recorded 2 outs on fly balls by Geovany Soto and Tyler Colvin, the Cubs finally got the clutch hitting they so desperately needed. Kosuke Fukudome single to right sending Fontenot scampering to 3rd base. Meek then threw a wild pitch allowing Fontenot to score and Fukudome to move to 2nd and into scoring position. Starlin Castro kept the inning alive as he hustled to 1st base safely after Ronny Cedeno’s fielding error. Derrek Lee – who had failed in this situation countless times before this season – finally delivered a hit that plated Fukudome with the tying run.
The Cubs then took full advantage in the bottom of the 8th inning. Alfonso Soriano singled and stole 2nd base with 2 outs to get into scoring position (he was even able to advance to 3rd base on the wild throw). The Pirates then walked Geovany Soto to force the Cubs to use a pinch-hitter. Xavier Nady was 0 for 9 as a pinch-hitter since July 2008, but he delivered the game winning single that scored Soriano with the winning run.
Kudos to the Cubs pitchers too. Ted Lilly hung in there after giving up 3 runs in the 2nd inning. He ended up going 7 innings, allowing just those 3 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks. It wasn’t his best game, but he did what he had to do to give his club a shot at the end. Sean Marshall delivered again with another scoreless inning of relief. His 0.87 WHIP and 2.45 ERA are simply amazing. And then Carlos Marmol came through with one of the biggest saves of his career – seriously. Just think if he had gotten into trouble in the 9th inning. The Cubs offense finally came through with 3 runs to take the lead at the end of the game. It would have been the perfect time for the Cubs bullpen to do something wrong to blow the game once again. But Marmol did the exact opposite – throwing a perfect inning with 2 K’s.
Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that this is going to send the Cubs on a 10-game winning streak. They still are too inconsistent at this point in the season to get my hopes up too much. But this NL Central division is up for grabs. No one is going to run away with this. The Reds are now in 1st place, and the Cubs are still just 5.5 games out of the division lead. Anything is possible – they just need to hang in there and stay as positive as possible. It’s not easy, but you never know. As Manager Lou Pinella said — “I’d like to see people get hot and stay hot and win games, and everything will take care of itself. I wouldn’t be getting asked these questions day in and day out, OK? And having to make excuses and everything else, OK? So, if we start doing the things that we’re capable of doing, I won’t have to answer these questions all the time…If the talent that we had was playing up to [expectations], I’d tell you I didn’t think it would happen. We’re confident that we’ll get it going but we’ve got to score more runs consistently and we’ve got to keep [opponents] from scoring, especially late, because you can’t come back from those things… Everybody’s trying. Nobody’s going through the motions. It’s just a question of being more consistent. Once we do that, we’ll win more baseball games. And then everybody will be happy. The media will be happy. The manager will be happy. Tghe players will be happy. The fans will be happy.”
Amen to that…