Saturday, April 10, 2004  
Bud Selig would have just called it a tie

Game Recap 4/9/04: Cubs 2, Braves 1 in 15 innings

A scintillating performance by Carlos Zambrano was nearly wasted; he allowed five baserunners in seven innings and struck out seven, but left the game down one run. Though he left a few sinkers up in the strike zone throughout the game, the Braves were only able to score one run on a leadoff homer by Andruw Jones in the second inning. The score was 1-0 Braves in the top of the ninth and the Cubs faced John Smoltz. Alex Gonzalez, 0 for 3 on the day, was lifted for Todd Walker, who grounded out weakly to Smoltz. One out. Barrett, also hitless in three at-bats, smacked a grounder up the middle which caused Smoltz to hit the deck, but he got his glove up to stop the ball and threw Barrett out at first. Two down and the pitcher's spot due up.

Baker made the right move here, sending up lefty Todd Hollandsworth to pinch-hit. He sent the first pitch into the right field stands to tie the score, and that's when the real game started.

Inning by inning, it went as follows:
Top of 10th: Patterson pops up a bunt. Cubs see six pitches in the inning and go down 1-2-3. Cubs 1, Braves 1.
Bottom of 10th: LaTroy pitches his second inning of work on the day and gets Adam La Roche on a 4-3 grounder, strikes out De Rosa, then gives up a DEEP fly ball to Eddie Perez that's caught by Sosa on the track. Cubs 1, Braves 1.
Top of 11th: Aramis Ramirez leads off with a double. Derrek Lee walks on four pitches. Ramon Martinez comes up to pinch-hit, fouls off two bunts, then grounds into a DOUBLE PLAY. A promising inning with runners on first and second with nobody out turns into two outs, runner on third, and Michael "oh-fer" Barrett at the plate. He leaves nothing to chance and strikes out. Cubs 1, Braves 1.
Bottom of 11th: Mike Wuertz comes in to face Methuselah Franco, Freddie Garcia, and Brian Giles. 1-2-3 inning. I think the Cubs put Wuertz on the roster because a scouting report for him does not exist. Enjoy his success while it lasts. Cubs 1, Braves 1.
Top of 12th: Former Cub Juan Cruz enters the game. He gives up a single to Grudzielanek and one to Sosa, but they don't score. Cubs 1, Braves 1.
Bottom of 12th: Andy Pratt in to face Larry Jones. Jones lines one down the third base line, but Ramirez was practically standing in foul territory, guarding the line. Easy out. Pratt walks Drew & Andruw Jones, then gets La Roche to pop out to center. Dusty yanks him for Todd Wellemeyer, who promptly walks Mark De Rosa, then turns around and strikes out Eddie Perez to end the inning. Sigh of relief from me and grumblings from my wife about how her perfectly planned intimate lasagna dinner is getting cold. Cubs 1, Braves 1.
Top 13: Ramirez goes down on strikes, then Lee singles and steals second. Unfortunately, the goat of the 11th inning, Ramon Martinez, watches three strikes go by. Michael Barrett does a little better--he goes down swinging. More runners stranded, no lasagna eaten, Cubs 1, Braves 1.
Bottom 13: Juan Cruz leads the inning off with a four-pitch walk. Jesse Garcia bunts him over, Marcus Giles flies out, then Larry Jones gets a free pass. JD Drew gets first on a ball four that goes to the backstop, but Cruz can't score. Bases loaded, two out, Wellemeyer gets Andruw Jones to pop out. Whew! Lasagna gets put in refrigerator. Cubs 1, Braves 1.
Top 14: I tell my wife about the 21 inning loss to the Dodgers in '80 or '81. (When was that game? Anybody?). She groans and leaves me all alone to watch Goodwin lead off the inning with a hit, get moved to second on a Grudz bunt, then get stranded when Corey strikes out, Sosa is intentionally walked, and the last available pinch hitter, PAUL BAKO, Flies out. Sosa, standing on first, becomes the fifteenth runner stranded in the game. Cubs 1, Braves 1.
Bottom 14: Mercker takes over and strikes out some guy named Hessman, gets De Rosa on a grounder to second, gives up a single to Eddie Perez. Pinch hitter Johnny Estrada, who was miked during the game and made some pretty funny comments, flies out. Cubs 1, Braves 1.
Top of the 15th Inning (this is where it gets good): Aramis Ramirez leads off with his third double of the game. Derrek Lee singles, but Ramirez can't score. The goat of the 11th and 13th innings, Ramon Martinez, ground out to third, and they throw Ramirez out at the plate. His three at-bats actually made me pine for Alex Gonzalez. Barrett walks. Bases loaded, one out. All we need is a fly ball, and up comes..Tom Goodwin? Darn the luck! Seems like the Cubs have the wrong guy at the plate at least 3 or 4 times every game. But wait - ol' Punch & Judy hits a routine fly to right field. Lee scores! Grudz tries the old "third out sac fly" routine, and the inning's over. Cubs 2 (!), Braves 1.
Bottom of the 15th: Joe Borowski comes on. All that talk of his velocity being down is running through my head. If he gets in trouble, the only fresh pitcher who hasn't been in the game is some guy named Prior, and he's on the disabled list. Freddie Garcia says the "F" word as Joe changes speeds on him, striking him out. Marcus Giles is not fooled - he singles, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate in the person of Larry Jones himself. Larry takes a big cut at a 1-2 pitch - I couldn't tell if it was a breaking ball or just a changeup - and whiffs. Then Joe, in the tradition of Mitch Williams, walks JD Drew. Two out, men on first and second, Borowski vs. Andruw Jones for all the marbles, and Jones grounds out to third. Huzzah! Final Score: Cubs 2, Braves 1. I re-heat the lasagna and we have a nice dinner anyway. All food tastes better when it's seasoned with a Cubs victory.

So what did they do right?:
-First of all, and we all knew this one, The Cubs have some lights-out pitchers. Zambrano was excellent even on a night when his slider wouldn't stay down consistently. He threw 109 pitches in 7 innings; an acceptably efficient night. The bullpen - all of it - got the job done. LaTroy Hawkins was used effectively, and Baker managed to save Borowski until he needed him.
-Secondly, Michael Barrett appeared to work well with the pitchers behind the plate and gave the rookies a pep talk when they needed it.
-Thirdly, they got 12 hits & 8 walks. They had baserunners all night.
-Grudzielanek made two nice plays in the field, and Sosa made a good running catch.

What went wrong?
-Corey Patterson batted 7 times and saw 15 pitches. And he's hitting 2nd in the lineup. If this guy would get some patience he'd be an all-star.
-Ramon Martinez was personally responsible for killing one rally and almost a second. He's the Goat of the Game. The best at-bat of the night was the time he struck out.
-Two stolen bases by the Braves and no one thrown out. Barrett has Andy Allanson's arm.
-Dusty got away with having the wrong people in the game at the wrong time. Bako, Goodwin, and Walker were all asked to do things they couldn't do, Andy Pratt had to face two righties and no lefties, and Patterson showed he's not a #2 hitter (yet?). It wasn't all bad, but it felt as if Cox had the tactical advantage throughout the extra inning ordeal.

All in all, I had a ball watching that game. Aramis Ramirez went 4-7 with three doubles, Lee had 2 hits and 3 walks, and a few guys showed some patience at the plate. And of course, the pitching was fantastic. Of course, this extra inning affair leaves the Cubs in the awkward position of having a tired bullpen for Sergio Mitre's start, but hey, if we're in trouble late in the game we'll just send Hollandsworth up to do his Reggie impersonation.

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