Another Team Win, and Open Thread: Cubs vs. Giants, Thursday 8/23, 2:35 CT

SAN FRANCISCO -- Every day, new heroes. Isn't this fun to watch? Isn't this what winning baseball is all about?

Last night, Jason Kendall, Mike Fontenot and Henry Blanco (in his first appearance since May 30) were the heroes in extra innings as the Cubs won their second in a row over the Giants, 4-2 in ten innings, in front of a not-quite-sold-out Phone Company Park crowd of 39,548. By the time the tenth inning came around, the 5,000 or so Cub fans in attendance were far louder than any Giants fans remaining.

And once again, Giants fans need new material. I heard the "What's the matter with Floyd? He's a bum!" chant -- pretty lame. And outside the park after the game, some Giants fans were chanting "Let's go White Sox!" -- as if that's going to upset us after a big win like this?

And I read through the entire game thread and was surprised to learn that not a single one of you noticed me on TV. It was a brief shot, shortly after 10 pm Central time (that must have been about the fourth or fifth inning, because just as Tuesday night, last night's game moved pretty quickly along) -- I got a couple of phone calls from people telling me they had seen me. I was wearing one of those blue pullovers you see the Cubs wearing during batting practice, and the new Cubs BP cap. So if you saw someone resembling that... that was me!

Rich Hill and Barry Zito, as I mentioned in last night's game thread, have had their curveballs and pitching styles compared at times. And they matched each other well last night -- Hill through seven innings, Zito through eight. Each pitcher had a brief moment or two when they lost focus -- Hill in the first and third, giving up hard-hit singles and doubles, Zito in the fourth, when Mark DeRosa and Derrek Lee singled and Aramis Ramirez doubled (missing a home run by only a few feet) them both in.

And that's where it stayed. Hill kept striking out Giants -- ten in all. Zito kept getting Cubs to ground out -- there was a brief bit of hope in the sixth when DeRosa singled again, but Zito got Lee to hit into a double play. I was surprised, frankly, when Bruce Bochy let Zito hit for himself in the 7th, even though Zito's pitch count was pretty low, because the Giants hadn't been able to generate any offense and Zito's batting average was, at the time, below .100. I say "at the time" because, of course, Zito then bounced a single up the middle. The inning, and Hill's outing, ended with a flourish as he struck out Rajai Davis, his tenth K.

Props to Carlos Marmol, whose filthy slider was strongly in evidence last night. Marmol won't throw today as it took him 41 pitches to finish off the Giants in the 8th and 9th innings, but he struck out four, including Davis again to end the ninth inning with two runners on base.

And then, one of the better-played Cub innings of the year -- if you were sleeping, details: Cliff Floyd, seemingly a man on a mission after returning following his father's passing, doubled down the line; Mike Fontenot, who hasn't had a hit in ten days, proved his worth by drawing a walk; Jason Kendall bounced a ball up the middle that Giants 2B Rich Aurilia couldn't handle (Aurilia was charged with an error, thus no RBI for Kendall), scoring pinch-runner Felix Pie, and then Blanco laid down his absolutely gorgeous squeeze, making it 4-2.

Remember games like this? Last year's Cubs lost games like this. This year's Cubs find ways to win games like this. It's only the Cubs' second extra-inning win of the year, and couldn't have come at a better time, with the Brewers' loss in Arizona, giving the Cubs a 1-game lead in the Central again.

Took both my kids to the game -- even Rachel, who doesn't really care about baseball, had fun. Both of them went to the speed pitch booth before the game. Rachel threw 28 MPH. OK, not bad for a 14-year-old non-baseball-playing girl, right? Mark, who threw 43 MPH when he was here three years ago, has bumped that up to 53 MPH at age 12.

Fun! That's what we had. That's what the Cubs appear to be having. Let's finish the sweep today.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Carlos Zambrano
C. Zambrano
Cubs
vs. Matt Cain
M. Cain
Giants
14-9 W-L 5-13
3.86 ERA 3.78
139 SO 124
77 BB 70
20 HR 10
vs. SF -- vs. Cubs
Last Sunday, before the deluge washed out the Cubs/Cardinals game at Wrigley Field, Z seemed to have everything going for him. He had thrown three perfect innings with what was, for him, a fairly efficient 43 pitches, which is why he can start today on three days' rest. On July 18 at Wrigley Field, Z threw five scoreless innings, two-hitting the Giants, before being lifted because he didn't hydrate enough. In the cooler San Francisco weather, this shouldn't be a problem. Barry Bonds is 0-for-4 vs. Z, but Bonds often doesn't play day games after night games, so we may not even see him today.

This matchup is, in fact, a rematch of the July 18 game. Matt Cain, whose 5-13 record doesn't match up with his 3.78 ERA due to the lowest run support in baseball, got cuffed around pretty good by the Cubs last month (four hits, five walks and six earned runs). He has, however, gone at least seven innings in four of his last five starts.

Today's game is again on WGN. If you don't have access to WGN, try the Mediacenter.

MLB.com Gameday (2007 version)

MLB.com Gameday (2006 version)

MLB.com Gameday for tonight's Marlins/Cardinals game

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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