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A Long Day's Journey Into... Victory! Cubs Bats Awaken In 14th For 6-3 Win Over Reds

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This recap is a bit delayed because... well, I needed to get up and get something to eat after sitting in one place watching five hours and thirteen minutes of Cubs baseball (thanks to BCB reader lswaidz for posting the extra-inning fanshot, incidentally).

There were 473 pitches thrown in the Cubs' 6-3, 14-inning win over the Reds this afternoon -- 230 by the Cubs, 243 by the Reds, by a total of sixteen pitchers. It got so ridiculous that three starting pitchers were used as pinch-hitters, including the Reds' Matt Maloney, who had just made his major league debut last night. He went 1-for-2, and can't you just see Dusty Baker looking at his stat sheet and saying, "Hey! I got a guy hitting .500! I gotta send him up there to hit!"

It wouldn't have lasted that long if Carlos Marmol had any semblance of command today; he walked both of the hitters he faced and threw only three strikes in his 11 pitches. I'm worried about him, especially since he seems to usually throw better with more work. Aaron Heilman came in, relieved Marmol and got out of the inning with only one run scoring -- it could have been far worse, because after a run had scored Heilman loaded the bases with an intentional walk, but got out of the inning.

And after that the Cubs bullpen was absolutely outstanding. From the ninth through the 14th inning, six innings worth of work, they allowed four hits and three walks (one intentional), struck out six, and got out of jams admittedly of their own creation. Props especially to Jose Ascanio, who appears to have arrived as a major league reliever. He had good movement and velocity and mound presence today, especially after having not pitched since last Sunday. The same can be said for David Patton, whose last appearance was also one week ago. He threw 13 strikes in 20 pitches in two good innings and registered his second major league win when Alfonso Soriano broke the tie -- and scored the first Cubs run in 11 innings -- with his 14th home run leading off the 14th inning.

Angel Guzman, who had to pitch only because the game went so long, got his first major league save. I hope it's the first of many -- right now, he's the best pitcher in the bullpen.

It's unfortunate that Randy Wells, who threw well for the sixth time, still remains without a major league victory. (At one point Len Kasper got so loopy from the length of the game that he called him "David Wells", apparently morphing David Patton with Randy Wells to get the former lefty's name.) The Cubs have won only two of Randy's six starts, but he left two others with the lead, and that's all you can ask from a starting pitcher circa 2009: that he leaves the game having put his team in a position to win. After that it's up to the bullpen, which has been bad, but perhaps, just perhaps, turned it around today. All told Cub relievers today threw 7.1 innings and gave up just one run.

Offensively, the Cubs -- as did the Reds -- squandered numerous opportunities to win the game both in regulation and in extra innings. The Cubs had RISP with less than two out in the 9th, 10th, 12th and 13th innings but could not score, either running themselves out of the inning or having them ended on double plays. Soriano's homer, to the opposite field (and caught by a couple of what appeared to be extremely happy Cubs fans), seemed to awaken the bats, because four of the next five hitters reached base, putting the game safely away.

A bit of history: during the game on WGN Len said that Cubs media relations director Peter Chase reported that the last time the Cubs had played four extra-inning games in a stretch of five games was in late September 1943 (except for a stretch in 1951 that involved a suspended game). I found a few more long stretches of extra-inning games:

  • 1963: four extra-inning games in a six-game stretch from August 2-8. Record: 2-2
  • 1966: seven extra-inning games in a 17-game stretch from August 2-19. Record: 6-1
  • 1978: four extra-inning games in a six-game stretch from September 15-21. Record: 1-3
  • 1981: four extra-inning games in a six-game stretch from August 10-16 (the first six games after the resumption of the season after the strike). Record: 1-3
  • 1987: five extra-inning games in a nine-game stretch from May 23-June 1. Record: 2-3
  • 2004: four extra-inning games in a seven-game stretch from September 24-30. Record: 1-3, and that's a huge reason the Cubs missed the playoffs in 2004.

Enough -- it's exhausting just reading that list. I'm sure the entire team is thankful for tomorrow's off day and that they don't have to play again till Tuesday night. That will provide rest for the bullpen, which is now quite overworked. Best result of all today: the Cubs picked up ground on all three teams that were ahead of them starting the day today, because the Brewers blew a late-inning lead at Atlanta and the Cardinals lost their third straight game to the Rockies. You think the Cubs have pitching trouble? You think the Cardinals are invincible? St. Louis just gave up 28 runs in three games to the Rockies -- at home, not in Coors Field. The Cubs sit 3.5 games behind the Brewers, but only two in the loss column, and all of this despite the injuries and turmoil of the last month. Again -- if they can just hang in there till everyone comes back, good things will still happen this season. Enjoy the off day.