SBW hit the second game of the Cubs-Cardinals series Friday on a beautiful day for baseball--or just anything else. The Cubs rewarded us with an exciting, harrowing 8-7 win, made all the better because the Cubs had to fight back a couple of times, something we hadn't seen them do yet this season.
The ultimate heroics came from Alfonso Soriano, who had looked pretty awful at the plate until his botton-8th 2-run homer gave the Cubs a timely lead. Soriano had whiffed thrice against Cards rookie P.J. Walters, who did have good strikeout stuff yesterday. Still, Walters allowed the rest of the Cubs a 3-0 lead on a run-scoring double by Micah Hoffpauir (who is not making us mess Milton Bradley), a run-scoring single by Aramis Ramirez, and a sac fly by Kosuke Fukudome (who still is looking sharp).
It was mostly Soriano's at-bats against Walters were positively embarrassing, the first two taking no more than 7 pitches, and all three Ks were characterized by wild swings. The second one came with the bases loaded.
On the mound for the Cubs, Carlos Zambrano had started well, and with the bases juiced and Albert Pujols up in the 3rd inning, was able to limit Pujols to a sacrifice fly. But, the next batter, Ryan Ludwick, went deep with a 3-run homer.
Fortunately, the rook Walters was on a short leash and gone after 5 innings, with the Cards up 5-3. The Cubs came right back and tied it 5-5 in the 5th, as A-Ram doubled in D-Lee, and Geovany Soto singled in the tying run. Geo is still struggling, and ending up behind a lot of pitches, but looked better as this game progressed.
Zammy gave the lead back in the 6th on a homer by Brian Barden, his second in two days, and in the 7th gave up another homer to Ludwick. It was a surprise to many of us he was still in for the 7th, but Lou let him finish for a 7 IP, 7 ER effort. I guess you could argue he only had three disasterous pitches all game, but I wonder if the Cubs were just trying to push a starter longer in a close game and leave the shaky bullpen off the mound as long as possible.
The Cubs got a run in their half of the 7th as A-Ram knocked in Fukie, who had doubled, making the score 7-6 Cards. In the 8th, with Carlos Marmol warming up and looking to pitch the 9th, Soriano turned an 0-1 into a big 1-5 with his 2-run jack after Aaron Miles pinch-walked. Marmol, already-warmed, cam in for the save, but not before walking a batter and hitting another. He cleaned up nicely though, striking out the formidable Ludwick, then getting a tailor-made double play to end it.
It was good to a see some comeback in the Cubs, as they have not done much this year when falling behind. Even better that it was against the Cards. Many Cards fans in our 500-something section slithered out of Wrigley pretty quietly.
The White Sox also experienced a one-run game, but came out on the bad end, losing 6-5 to the Rays. Just when it started looking like they might cruise to a 2-0 series lead against those dastardly Rays in the dreaded Trop, the bottom fell out.
The Sox had gone up 5-2 on another pretty strong outing--or at least 5.2 IP--by Bartolo Colon, but Colon loaded the bases with 2 outs in the 6th. I liked him at the 92-pitch mark to wriggle out on his own with minimal damage, but Ozzie yanked him in favor of Matt Thornton to face a left-handed Gabe Gross. But, the Rays pinch-hit Ben Zobrist (who swings both ways, by the way), and Zobrist smacked a grand slam.
I was nervous the whole game up to that point, thinking Colon was going to blow up, but he's really throwing like a crafty veteran right now and I kind of liked him matching up against Gross. Still, it's hard to argue with Thornton as a replacement since he has been fairly unhittable this season--I guess that means he was due.
The Sox seemed shell-shocked after the slam, but did muster a couple of baserunners in the top of the 9th and had a man on 3rd with 2 outs before being shut down. Offensively, they weren't bad, just weren't good enough. Chris Getz and Jim Thome both had 2 hits, Paul Konerko continued his hot-hitting with 2 RBIs, and Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye kept up their homerun-hitting contest: C.Q. got his 5th, and JeDye pounded his 4th.
Both our teams are 1-1 in their current 4-game sets with 2 games to go.