W - Wood (3-2), History. Fastballs over the outside corner. Generous outside corners.
L - Reynolds (2-3), any losers who didn't see this game live because they were out in the rain and cold shooting a bad round of golf. Trying to come up with an adequate term for that freaky breaking pitch of Wood's.
Things to Take from This Game
1. Wood Strikes Out 20, Two Batters Reach in Complete Game Shutout
From the first few pitches of the game it was clear that Wood had a potentially history-making fastball and breaking stuff working today. Wood K'd his first five,and gave up his only hit on a grounder by Gutierrez off of Orie's glove. This won't make me the most popular guy around here, but yeah, it was a hit. It also was a play that Orie probably makes more often than not. Tough luck for everyone involved. The only other runner came on a curveball that got away from Wood and beaned Biggio. The performance is every bit as dominating as the box score will indicate. Almost without exception, the Astros looked completely helpless.
2. Cubs scratch out 2 runs against Reynolds
Reynolds threw a complete game gem, himself, with 10 Ks and 1 ER in 8 innings. The Cubs' scores came on a Grace "double" in the second, on an incredibly generous ruling where third-baseman Howell got completely devoured by a bouncer. Grace then advanced to third as left-fielder Dave Clark throws away the potential play at second base. Oh Henry! drove him in with a sac fly to Alou in deep center field. They added another for good measure in the eighth; Morandini and Grace singled, with Morandini scoring on an attempted 5-4-3 double play that was too slowly turned and resulted in a fielder's choice.
3. Greatest Game Ever?
A traditional recap can not adequatly contextualize this game. The central question at this moment, just minutes after witnessing this gem, is not "what do we take from this game?" but "where will this game place among the all-time great games ever pitched?" Larson's perfect game came in a far more important context. Haddix's perfect game through 12 innings kept more hitters off base for longer. Clemens has two 20-K games to his record, but as I thumb through the pages of my favorite baseball encyclopedia, I see that Clemens gave up five hits in his 1996 gem, and a run on three hits in 1986. The 1996 Tigers and 1986 Mariners, furthermore, were no 1998 Astros. IS this the greatest game ever? If only we had some sort of pitcher's in-game dominance statistic, and a place that compiled every statistic from every game ever played. Then we might have a more objective idea of where this game ranks on the list of all-time great pitching performances. In the meantime, here's hoping that Wood's career is as successful and distinguished as the Rocket's.
4. Looking to the Future... All the way to the Year... 2000...
This has to portend well for the Cubs. If Wood can stay healthy and anchor a rotation with Trachsel, and another talented young arm like Geremi Gonzalez or Terry Adams or Telemaco emerges as a compliment, we could have a dominant rotation for a decade to come. We just need Wood's health to hold, and though we know he was worked hard in high school, he seems to be a very well built young man, and hopefully can keep his strength up. The Cubs winning a world series may be about as likely as a black president or a second Great Depression, but Wood may have the arm to get us there.
The if-this-is-his-rookie-year, just-imagine-the-things-to-come details, below.
W - Billingsley (1-0)
L - Zambrano (0-1)
Things to Take from This Game
1. Alex Gonzalez Redux
Second inning with Ethier on first, the dodgers put on a hit and run. Loney hits the ball to shortstop. But with Theriot covering the bag, he's out of position, can't make the barehand stop of the chopper. Ruled a hit. Correctly. Two batters later, DeWitt hits a potential inning-ending double-play ball right at DeRosa, but it pops out of his glove, and everyone's safe with a run scoring on the play. Lee makes an error on the next play, a chopper right at him hit by Blake, loading the bases. A Furcal bunt and a Martin bases-clearing double to the left-center Gap, and the Cubs found themselves down 5-0 going into the bottom of the second. A particular shame as Z had looked really focused, sharp, pitching quickly, with an awesome fastball, only to have his defense betray him and then give up a legit double.
- Ramirez also made a lame error a couple innings later. No damage was done, save to our pride.
- And Theriot gives the Cubs infield the Defensive Anti-Cycle, an error by each infielder, when he throws one away in the ninth.
2. Manny Ramirez Redux
Manny hit a gargantuan home run. He's good.
3. Ah, screwit.
Cotts and Marmol struggled, the Cubs got through 2/9ths of a 9-run comeback in the bottom of the ninth, other things probably happened to.
The "we have not yet begun to fight!" "No, really... we haven't yet begun to fight...." details, below.
Things to Take from This Game
1. Cubs out to an early lead
2. Dempster's wildness catches up to him
The worrisome details, below...
Cubs Clinch Division, First Back-to-Back since 1907-1908, Earliest since 1932
W - Lilly (16-9), You, Me, Santo, Harry, 104-year-old-dude-who-threw-out-the-first-pitch, all Cubs fans.
L - Pineiro (6-7), the rest of the NL Central
S - Wood (32)
Things to Take from This Game
1. A bases loaded three-run single for Soriano
Well, two rbis and an error leading to the third run. In the bottom of the second Soriano lined a single right at Brian Barton in left. The ball kicked off his glove and rolled to the wall, clearing the bases. The Cubs raced out to a 3-0 lead.
2. More fielding problems, more runs.
The Cubs got two more runs in the fourth, as Soto began the inning by smashing one through Glaus at third. DeRosa hit a double high off the ivy to score Soto, and after advancing to third on a Fukudome ground out, scored on a nicely executed suicide squeeze by Lilly. 5-0 Cubs through four innings.
3. Glaus homers in 4-run Sixth
Lilly looked great, very economical, through five. In the sixth Felipe Lopez gets an RBI single on a smash up the middle off Theriot's glove, and Glaus unloads a no-doubt three-run home run into the left field well. Suddenly we had a close game. 5-4 through six.
4. Lilly Recovers, Marmol and Wood close it out
Other than a leadoff walk to Glaus in the ninth, the last three innings passed uneventfully as Lilly pitched the seventh, with Marmol and Wood doing their jobs to close out the game. A soft fly out to Edmonds off the bat of Aaron Miles ended the game, and a happy Cubs team celebrated between the pitcher's mound and first base.
The Back-to-Back NL Central Champion Details, below.
I think I'm taking the 2008 Cubs for granted. I headed to my car for my commute home last night just as the Phillies were scoring three runs in the sixth. And even with Cole Hamels carving up the lineup, I never thought we were out of it. I tuned into XM radio by that point and it had Pat and Ron going and Pat was carrying on that the Phils bullpen has been worked hard lately. If the Cubs could just work up that pitch count up on Hamels. If he could go eight, the Phils would just go to Brad Lidge which probably wouldn't have done the Cubs much good considering he's a perfect 31 for 31 in save opportunities. The key was to get into the pen before that. After seven, Hamels was up to 108 pitches but due up third, and Charlie Manuel obliged by pinch hitting for him.
Boom. Mike Fontenot goes yard on Ryan Madson. As I heard Bob Brenly say on the replay, "ABH - Anybody but Hamels".
Next up, Soriano sounds like he just missed one for a double. After the Theriot single, Derrek Lee stepped up and I'm sure many the skeptical Cub fan were expecting the double play that he seems to be so prone to hitting to this year. But he already had two hits on the night and his one out sounded like a well-struck ball to the outfield. He's also managed a .923 OPS over the last 7 days. Chad Durbin left his control in the bullpen though and the bases were loaded for tonight's hero.
Whenever a Cub hits one deep, you can always tell with Pat if it's going out or not by the first or second word. He tries to put some excitement in any ball that looks like it has any chance but there's just this little extra inflection he puts in his voice when a ball is definitely going out. When Soriano hit his double, it wasn't there. When Fontenot and Ramirez hit there blasts, I could tell right away just by the subtle change in Pat's voice.
After missing on the first pitch to Ramirez and considering Durbin just walked Lee, I figured Ramirez would be taking. Instead I'm listening to Pat Hughes calling yet another Cubs comeback victory.
Ramirez is certainly the game's hero, but let's be sure to give Kerry Wood his deserved praise. Working on his fourth straight game against the four best Phillies hitters was no small task. He had a bit of breathing room, but an outstanding outing by him as well to navigate the ninth inning for his 28th save.
The Win Probability chart after the jump...
Quite a night for the Cubbies, who looked nothing like the team with the best record in baseball, other than the final result. Errors, defensive miscues, bad starting pitching, bad relief pitching and yet they overcame all that thanks to Craig Hansen's pitching and Geovany Soto's hitting. Soto had been on a steady decline since his monstrous April putting up OPS numbers of 1.048, .868, .747, .740 heading in August. But things have turned around for him and he's put up a 1.014 OPS with 20 RBI's matching his April RBI total with five games still to go this month. His seven RBI outburst yesterday tops his 6 RBI game in April versus the Brewers and is the second most RBI's for a Cubs catcher in a game trailing the likes of Barry Foote, George Mitterwald and Ed Bailey (since 1956).
If you happen to be wondering who had the most RBI's in a game for the Cubs since 1956 like I was, the answer is after the jump.