Go figure, right?
Sean Marshall, originally scheduled to start today (and the reason his picture wound up in the First Pitch Thread is because I had scheduled that one early, and forgot to change it), wound up as the sixth Cub pitcher of the day, threw three pitches, induced Lance Berkman -- who had launched a rocket onto Sheffield already in the ninth inning -- to ground out, and got the win when the Cubs bailed out the bullpen and defeated the Astros 5-4 this afternoon at Wrigley Field.
This recap was going to have a completely different focus until the ninth inning, praising Randy Wells -- who has now thrown 16.1 scoreless innings from the start of his major league career -- for his six-inning, four-hit, three strikeout performance, and Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol for shutting the Astros down to set up Kevin Gregg, who closed ...
Whoops. That last part didn't happen. Gregg was horrendous today, there's no getting around it. In addition to Berkman's bomb, Carlos Lee homered and the only Astro who didn't get a hit off Gregg, Geoff Blum, got hit by Gregg, at which time Lou said, "Enough" and brought in Aaron Heilman. Heilman, a bit shaky (only seven strikes in 16 pitches), managed to get two flyouts and Marshall got Berkman's groundout with the bases loaded.
Many in the crowd in the bleachers were chanting, "Woody! Woody!" while Gregg was imploding, but that wouldn't have helped matters. Gregg had actually been pretty good over his last few appearances. I take issue with his postgame comment that "it wasn't a save situation". That shouldn't matter; Gregg dispatched the Padres easily with an identical four-run lead on Tuesday night. Maybe the four-day layoff in between appearances for him could be blamed, but Lou said in his own remarks that "if we need Gregg tomorrow, he'll be back out there." Lou also commented that he had a few words with a fan near the dugout after removing Gregg, upon which he told the fan, "You enjoy the game and let me manage the team", only, as Lou said, "in more colorful language".
Laughter followed, and the Cubs can afford that after the ninth-inning comeback, particularly satisfying off ex-Cub LaTroy Hawkins. Hawkins walked Bobby Scales -- Scales' hitting streak ended at six, but that walk was an outstanding at-bat, and all the Cubs needed was for him to get on base. Aaron Miles sacrificed him to second, and then I think everyone in the house was stunned to see the Astros pitch to Alfonso Soriano instead of putting him on. They must have told Hawkins to "let him get himself out", i.e. give him pitches outside the zone and make him swing at the bad stuff he often offers at. Instead, Soriano flared an 0-2 pitch into right field and Mike Quade sent Scales.
This was an aggressive, Wavin' Wendell type move, and the result, obviously, won the game. If Hunter Pence had made an accurate throw, Scales was probably an easy out. But Pence's throw was high and the Cubs won.
All the bullpen histrionics ruined not only Wells' fine performance, but also excellent outings by Guzman (who looks more confident in his own abilities each time out) and Marmol, who looked great today, as well as a nice day by Micah Hoffpauir subbing for the suspended Milton Bradley. Hoffpauir made a couple of nice catches in RF and slammed a two-run homer off Roy Oswalt to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead, right after Derrek Lee had a really nice at-bat and singled in the Cubs' first run.
Nevertheless, wins are wins, no matter how they are obtained. The Cubs' fifth win in a row keeps them half a game behind Milwaukee and in second place ahead of the Cardinals after the Brewers' 1-0 win over St. Louis this afternoon.
Be happy. But fix that bullpen!