Kosuke Fukudome, the subject of trade rumors to the Red Sox posted earlier today, singled in the winning run with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and the Cubs beat the Athletics 3-2, winning a series for the first time in three weeks; the win boosted their interleague record to 5-4 and they have now won three of their last four games, allowing only four runs in the three victories. Let's for now forget about the A's nine-run outburst Tuesday night; in general, Cubs pitching has been outstanding for the last several days.
Thus, I'll skip the complaints about Lou's bizarre use of his bench today, his non-lifting of Randy Wells after he had thrown about 700 pitches in the seventh inning (an inning he likely shouldn't even have started; the Cubs now lead the major leagues in pitcher starts of over 120 pitches with seven) -- OK, so it wasn't that many, it only seemed like that many.
But I'm not going to mention any of that, because the complaint department is closed!
Actually, this was the biggest game of the year for the Cubs if they are to maintain any hopes of contending -- and they remained 6.5 games behind the Reds, who also won this afternoon. Randy Wells got past his first-inning problems and scattered three hits through the first four innings until he was touched for a run in the fifth. The Cubs had taken a 1-0 lead on Jeff Baker's HR in the first, but should have scored more -- they had the bases loaded with one out, only to see Alfonso Soriano strike out and Geovany Soto hit into a force play.
There it stayed until the seventh, when Wells should probably have been pulled; he was well over 100 pitches coming into that inning. Mark Ellis' HR gave the A's the lead, and two outs later, Wells walked Rajai Davis. Lou trudged out, and we were sure that Andrew Cashner would get the call to face Conor Jackson. Nope -- Lou trudged back. Wells finally got Jackson to pop up.
The Cubs manufactured a run in the eighth when Bob Geren did his Lou impression and mismanaged his lineup. Not used to NL double-switches, he called for closer Andrew Bailey to face Xavier Nady with the bases loaded and one out. Nady hit a sac fly to tie the game, and Bailey got out of the inning by striking out Soriano.
Bailey threw only ten pitches. Why Geren didn't double-switch, say, Jackson out of the game and bring in Ryan Sweeney -- who wound up batting for Bailey anyway -- is beyond me. Glad he did it, because that forced him to remove Bailey for Sweeney, who singled off Cashner -- yet another weird Lou move; why wasn't Carlos Marmol in the game in the ninth inning of a tie game at home? Marmol, finally summoned, got out of the jam.
Jerry Blevins replaced Bailey; the name may not sound familiar to you, but Blevins started in the Cubs farm system. He was a 17th-round pick in 2004, and traded to the A's in 2007 (with Rob Bowen) for Jason Kendall. He couldn't throw strikes today; he walked Geovany Soto on a couple of close pitches; after a sac and an intentional pass, he walked Ryan Theriot.
Think about that. That's only the fourth walk Theriot has drawn in 164 plate appearances since May 1. But it set up Fukudome's heroics and the win.
Weird managing on both sides; gorgeous sunshine, low humidity and a gentle breeze; and a Cubs victory. They still have a long way to go before any real "contention" can be discussed -- but this week has seen some of the best baseball all season. Keep up the good work this weekend vs. the Angels.
Via tweet from Carrie, the Cubs are close to signing first-round pick Hayden Simpson (pending a physical); he'll be at Wrigley Field this weekend from what I hear, and an official signing announcement could come on Saturday.
Finally, many of you may have seen this photo when I sent it via TwitPic earlier today, but I thought another look at the Ryan Theriot fishing bobblehead was called for, especially after his key walk in the ninth inning: