Sorry, I've run out of Jason Marquis puns! But between Marquis' outstanding performance (seven-plus innings, only one run scoring while he was in the game, two overall) and Alfonso Soriano's second three-homer game of his Cub career (joining Aramis Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, Dave Kingman, Ernie Banks and Hank Sauer as Cubs who have had more than one), the Cubs ended their six-game losing streak with a bang, slamming five homers -- including one by Marquis, his first of the year and fourth of his career and beating the Reds 14-9, scoring as many runs in one game as they had during the entire losing streak, and at last, passing last year's win total.
The football-like score was, as is often the case in the NFL, "not as close as it indicated". Some sloppy relief work by Jeff Samardzija (who hit a batter, allowed three hits and walked one), Michael Wuertz (who didn't retire any of the three batters he faced) and even Carlos Marmol (who let Jolbert Cabrera hit the first pitch he threw for a grand slam, before setting down the Reds in the 9th), made blowout appear close. Len & Bob were worried that Lou might have to get Kerry Wood up in the 9th in a game where the Cubs had led by nine and ten runs.
Actually, getting Wood some work last night might not have been a bad idea, as he hadn't thrown since last Tuesday (neither had Marmol). Regardless of what happens this afternoon, I suspect we'll see Wood in the 9th, as after today, the Cubs don't play again until Tuesday night in St. Louis.
It wasn't just home runs (including Mark DeRosa's 20th), either -- the 18-hit attack included doubles by Geovany Soto and Derrek Lee (who had four hits in all, celebrating his 33rd birthday in style). Soriano drove in five runs, giving him only one less than he had all of last year -- in 42 fewer games. When Alfonso starts hitting like this, he can carry a team for a couple of weeks at a time, as he did last September, or when he came off the DL both times this year, or last year when he hit the three homers in Atlanta (in the 31 games subsequent to that, including the 3-HR game, he hit .306/.340/.567 with 8 doubles and 9 homers). Like Sori or hate him; be frustrated or excited with his play; he drives the Cubs' offense, and if this starts another one of those streaks, good things are going to follow.
Marquis was outstanding last night, though he had brief control problems early; the only run credited to his record that scored while he was in the game was on a bases-loaded walk... that had to be one of the weirdest walks I've ever seen. Plate umpire Brian Runge, on a three-ball pitch to Chris Dickerson, stood there. And stood there, and stood there, until he finally held up four fingers, indicating Dickerson had walked. No one knew quite what to do, and Marquis got justifiably upset. Fortunately, Lou came out and defused the situation, but not before making Runge come out to the mound to meet him. Umpires need to make these calls more obvious, not to mention get them right -- that pitch was a nasty sinker that should have been strike three.
The missed call seemed to energize Marquis -- he shut the Reds down after it, retiring the next 10 hitters in a row until Brandon Phillips walked to start the 8th. After he retired Joey Votto on a fly ball, Lou came to get him, a job well done.
While the Brewers beat the Padres for the second day in a row, San Diego's pitching staff has held Milwaukee's high-octane offense down, allowing only six runs in the three games; give Jake Peavy credit last night, giving them only one run (which scored on a groundout), but SD's offense could do nothing off Ben Sheets -- who threw another CG, his fifth and Milwaukee's league-leading 11th. This may be significant later; no other team has more than five CG's, and Ned Yost may be running his pitchers into the ground just to get to the postseason. CC Sabathia has been great for them -- so far. But if Yost keeps sending him out there for nine innings every start, he'll wind up with over 240 innings for the year, just as he did last year. Check out his postseason numbers in 2007 for what overuse like that can do.
But that's for later. In the meantime, win today, win another series, and onward to St. Louis. The pregame thread will be up at 10:30 am CDT.