It was quieter at Wrigley Field this afternoon; the jets appearing at the Chicago Air & Water Show didn't make their main entrance till after the game was over, and Cubs bats poked out just nine hits and three runs, but it was enough for their second straight win over the Bucs, 3-1.
I almost feel sorry for the Pirates. Wait, yes, I do feel sorry for their fans, who at this point have to pay to watch what is essentially a Triple-A team on the field. However, I think I'll save this until after the Pirates leave Chicago, and hope the Cubs sweep them tomorrow.
Jeff Baker was the hitting hero today -- he hit his second homer as a Cub and drove in a first-inning run with a single. The single might have led to a big inning had Derrek Lee not been thrown out trying to score; Lee took a reasonable chance and Andrew McCutchen made an outstanding throw to Ryan Doumit to get Lee out.
Baker is hitting .500 (14-for-28) over the last seven games, all starts, at second base and appears to have won the job, at least for now, making Mike Fontenot a bench player. I'm still puzzled as to why Aaron Miles keeps being sent up to pinch-hit and is left in the game, while Fontenot rots on the bench. I asked Mike, sitting next to me, when Miles came up, "Should I write down the 4-3 putout now or wait till he actually does it?" Mike told me to wait. I should have just done it, as that's exactly what Miles did.
Tom Gorzelanny's third outing as a Cub starter was kind of in between outstanding start #1, and bad start #2. He again failed to field a bunt and nearly slipped, the way he did in Colorado on Monday. That one wound up as a hit for Pirates pitcher Zach Duke, although Gorzelanny's throw was pretty wild. I won't put that all on Gorzo, as Jake Fox at 3B should have made the play, calling off the pitcher, as the ball was right in front of him. All of this helped lead to Pittsburgh's only run of the day, on a sac fly by McCutchen.
Gorzo was done after that, having run a fair number of high counts in five innings, throwing 83 pitches and striking out eight while walking three. His ERA dropped by nearly a run, from 6.23 to 5.24, and gives him a good base for starting again, likely the first game of the series in Los Angeles next Thursday. The bullpen did a fine job today, giving the Pirates only a pair of hits over the last four innings. Just as he did last Saturday in Colorado, Carlos Marmol threw a scoreless inning and threw strikes (12 of 18 pitches). Now, he has to build on that by doing it the next outing, and the one after that and...
You get the idea. Pirates manager John Russell left Duke in to throw 113 pitches, which was really unnecessary; he's going to wind up blowing out the arm of the best pitcher on his staff if he keeps doing that. Needing runs with a man on first and one out in the seventh, he let Duke bat; Duke executed a nice sac bunt, but it meant nothing. That's a real message to your bench -- "you can't hit", and to your bullpen -- "I don't want you in the game".
Enough. It was nice to see Aramis Ramirez feel well enough to pinch-hit today and single; I presume this means he'll be back in the starting lineup tomorrow. Let's sweep these guys, and hope the Padres cooperate tonight and beat the Cardinals.