There are really two things that defined the Cubs 8-5 victory over the Brewers on Easter Sunday to win their second series in a row to start 2009: 1) Reed Johnson’s catch 2) Brewer walks.
I think it goes without saying that Reed’s catch is going to be remembered a little bit more than the fact that the Brewer pitchers decided they would rather put batters on base instead of running the risk of giving up a hit. If the 202 times they showed a replay of the catch that kept the Cubs lead intact in the 5th inning wasn’t enough for you, don’t fear, you’ll be able to watch it the rest of the season.
In that fifth inning, the bases were loaded for the Brewers portly first baseman, Prince Fielder, when he hit a towering fly ball over Reed Johnson’s head in right field, who had just come in as a replacement for the injured Milton Bradley (groin tightness). Reed sprinted back and timed his wall-scaling lead perfectly to snag the would be grand slam. What a play it was.
The other defining part of the game was the wildness of the Brewer pitchers. Jeff Suppan lasted only 3.2 innings even though he gave up only 2 hits. The Cubs squeezed 5 runs out of those two hits, mostly due to the fact that Suppan and his replacement, Jorge Julio, combined to walk in 4 Cubs in a big 4th inning.
For the game, the Cubs mustered just 5 hits, but scored 8 runs. The two big stars at the dish for Cubs today were Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Theriot. Soriano hit yet another leadoff homerun to instantly give the Cubs a lead. Alfonso already has 4 homers and 7 RBI’s in 6 games, so he is clearly out to improve on his weak starts the last two years. Even hotter out of the gate is Ryan Theriot. The Riot went 2-4 today with 2 runs, and RBI, and a double, actually lowering his average for the season to a scalding .550.
Unfortunately, Lou Piniella is already having to deal with injuries when putting together lineups. Catcher Geovany Soto did not play an innning behind the plate this series, but did make a cameo pinch hitting appearance in the 9th inning. I was a little worried the Cubs would have to retroactively DL Geo, but clearly that’s not in their plans. Piniella says that Geo is planning to start on Wednesday.
Also, not surprisingly, Milton Bradley is already dinged up. Running the bases in the big 4th inning, Milton complained of groin tightness and came out for Reed Johnson. We’ll keep you posted on his status.
On the mound, Ryan Dempster got the win, going 6 innings, giving up 6 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs while striking out 6. Dempster was pretty pedestrian today, but he did what he had to to get a win, even though it was ugly (and assisted by Reed Johnson).
When Dempster came out, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol handcuffed the Brewer lineup in the 7th and 8th. Allowing no baserunners and throwing only 24 pitches between them. Carlos Marmol, especially, was very sharp. He had not looked as unhittable as he was last year at times so far this season, but tonight guys didn’t have a chance against him. He struck out two and made every Cub fan wish he could throw every bullpen inning.
Then Mr. Adventure, Kevin Gregg, toed the rubber. He retired the first two guys uneventfully, looking like he was going to make a statement saying “there’s no closer controversy here”, then Rickie Weeks jacked a homerun to left field, then Craig Counsell laced a double, then he walked Ryan Braun. It’s one thing to give up hits, but if you’re out there walking batters with a 3 run 9th inning lead, you’re risking a Lou Piniella heart attack. Gregg eventually ended things with a strikeout of Prince Fielder.
There is no debating who the better pitcher is between Marmol and Gregg. In fact, Kevin Gregg himself probably wouldn’t even take his own side. The question is “where is Marmol’s value maximized?” I think the answer is in the role he fills now. It’s tough to sell Carlos Marmol on that when you consider that the way closers get paid is by getting saves. For that reason, Marmol will eventually be a closer, I just don’t know when.