Controversial walk-off leads Cubs past Astros

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Controversial walk-off leads Cubs past Astros

Friday, Sept. 16, 2011Posted: 5:53 p.m. Updated: 7:10 p.m.

Associated Press

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The Cubs finally caught a break.Matt Garza pitched nine strong innings and Marlon Byrd's 12th-inning dribbler was ruled fair, giving him an infield single and lifting Chicago to a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday."We don't do anything the easy way around here," manager Mike Quade said of the Cubs, who were coming off an 11-inning loss in Cincinnati on Thursday night.Starlin Castro set up the winning rally with a leadoff walk, went to second on Darwin Barney's sacrifice, and moved to third on a wild pitch. He scored when third baseman Chris Johnson couldn't handle Byrd's dribbler up the line."I think I set a record for the shortest walk-off hit ever," Byrd said.The Astros argued that Byrd's hit should have been a foul ball and replays suggested they were correct."I was right over top of it, so I had a really good look," Johnson said. "Once I saw it hit foul I just tried to make contact with it because the ball's dead, you know? ... We'll just move on. People make mistakes."Garza was one strike from finishing off a five-hitter when Carlos Lee hit his second home run of the game, a two-run shot into the left-field bleachers that tied it 3-all. Garza said he decided to challenge Lee with a fastball.
WATCH: Geovany Soto discusses Garza's start
"It is what it is, man," Garza said. "It's one of those situations where I said, 'Here's my best. What do you got?' He guessed right and beat me."I knew where I had to put that pitch for him not to hit it. I just left it up the middle and he got it."Nevertheless, it was a solid outing for Garza, who struck out four and threw a season-high 124 pitches, allowing seven hits and no walks. Jeff Samardzija (7-4) threw a scoreless 12th to pick up the win and send the Astros to their 99th loss.Houston has never lost 100 games in a season in the franchise's 50-year history."They're tough losses, but on the other hand, you have to look at the positives," Lee said. "We're playing good baseball. We're playing good games."Geovany Soto led off the third with his 15th homer, and Aramis Ramirez had three hits, including his first triple since July 9, 2010."(Rodriguez) left me a fastball right there and I put good wood on it," Soto said.Lee had three hits and three RBIs for Houston. He opened the scoring with a solo blast leading off the second. Lee has hit in 22 of his last 24 games, and has 23 career homers at Wrigley Field, third among active players."I would say since the All-Star break, I've been feeling pretty good," Lee said. "I've found a position where I feel real comfortable and I'm seeing the ball real good."Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez allowed three runs and six hits over 5 23 innings, striking out five and walking four. He is two strikeouts shy of becoming the first Astros lefty to record 1,000 in a career. Reliever David Carpenter (0-3) gave up the winning run.The Astros swung early and often against Garza, who faced the minimum in five different innings and no more than four until the ninth. After allowing J.D. Martinez's leadoff single in the fourth, Garza retired the next 13 Astros in order."For the main part, (Garza) threw the ball unbelievable today," Soto said.The long game was bad news for a Cubs squad weary after Thursday night's four-hour defeat. The Cubs were tired, but mustered enough energy to mob Byrd after his game-winner."They had plenty of energy, punching me in the stomach," Byrd said. "I just held my ground. We felt pretty good today. It's one of those things, we got in late but you have to get up for every game."Notes: Castro went 0 for 4 with two walks and remains seven hits shy of becoming the youngest Cub to reach the 200-hit mark. ... The Cubs opened their homestand Friday afternoon after finishing their road trip with the extra-inning loss at Cincinnati on Thursday night. It's the kind of scheduling crunch Quade would like to avoid given the ordinance that requires the Cubs to play day games on Fridays. "I don't know if it's a doable deal, but obviously you'd like to play a day game somewhere else before coming home," he said. ... Actor Martin Sheen performed during the seventh-inning stretch, singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." ... The Astros will send Henry Sosa to the mound on Saturday to face Chicago's Rodrigo Lopez.Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This materialmay not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Joe Maddon offers up Cubs strength coach to be Madonna's trainer

Joe Maddon offers up Cubs strength coach to be Madonna's trainer

MESA, Ariz. — Think the stir-crazy Cubs have been in Arizona long enough? Near the end of a camp that has been relatively tame — at least compared to last year's parade of mimes, zoo animals and karaoke jams — manager Joe Maddon heard about Madonna's contest to find a new dance trainer and immediately thought of the man behind those gonzo stunts.

Because that's what a three-time Manager of the Year does. So the organization's content arm put together a one-minute clip nominating strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss, releasing it to 1.7 million followers on Friday through the @Cubs Twitter account.

"We're hoping that Madonna has an opportunity to check that out," Maddon said at the Sloan Park complex. "We're willing to send even more information — whatever she possibly needs — to see that our guy's the best."

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Set to synthesized 1980s-style music, the aerobics video is rated more PG than the actual "Bussy" experience. The Cubs didn't show Buss leading the team stretch in a Speedo and a Lucha Libre mask. A slow-motion part of the montage does feature Buss standing alone in the clubhouse, dousing himself in beer during a clinching celebration.

"We could have made it more edgy," Maddon said. "There were so many more ways to go with it. I was kind of pleased with it. I thought it presented his abilities very well. His physique was presented in a manner that she could be duly impressed with the fact that our strength and conditioning coach fashions that form."

What if Madonna steals Buss from the Cubs?

"We could share somehow," Maddon said. "She'll fire him after a couple weeks anyway."

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to have the best rotation in baseball

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jake Arrieta is a Cy Young Award winner who won't get the Opening Night assignment. John Lackey is a No. 3 starter already fitted for his third World Series ring. Kyle Hendricks led the majors with a 2.13 ERA last year and won't start until the fifth game of this season.  

Do you feel like this is the best rotation in baseball?

"We're up there, yeah," Arrieta said after homering off Zack Greinke during Thursday afternoon's 5-5 tie with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. "I think on paper – and with what we've actually done on the field – it's tough to not say that.

"We like the guys we have. People can rank them, but time will tell. Once we get out there the first four or five times through the rotation, I think you can probably put a stamp on it then, more so than now. 

"But, yeah, we stack up just as well as anybody out there, for sure."  

Arrieta made it through five innings against the Diamondbacks, giving up three runs and eight hits in what figures to be his second-to-last Cactus League tune-up before facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 4. 

The New York Mets blew away Cubs hitters with their power pitching and game-planning during that 2015 National League Championship Series sweep. The Washington Nationals are trying to keep Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg healthy and already watched Tanner Roark deliver for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. 

The Cubs dreaded the idea of facing Johnny Cueto in a possible elimination game at Wrigley Field last October. The Los Angeles Dodgers almost became a matchup nightmare for the Cubs with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill during the 2016 NLCS.

But slotting Hendricks at No. 5 – five months after he started a World Series Game 7 – is a luxury few contenders can afford. 

"That just speaks to our length in the rotation," Arrieta said, "and being able to keep relievers out of the game, longer than most teams. That's a big deal, especially when you get into July and August. 

"Obviously, Kyle could be a 1 or 2 just about anywhere. Not that he's not here. We've got several of those, which is a good problem to have. It's going to be favorable for us when there's a No. 4 or No. 5 guy in our rotation going up against somebody else's. Our chances are really good, especially with our lineup." 

Arrieta talked up No. 4 starter Brett Anderson as "a little bit like Hendricks from the left side" in terms of his preparation, cerebral nature and spin rate, a combination that makes him an X-factor for this rotation and an organization starved for pitching beyond 2017. 

The if-healthy disclaimer always comes with Anderson, who played with Arrieta on the 2008 Olympic team and has been on the disabled list nine times since then. Coming out of high school, Arrieta initially signed to play for Anderson's father, Frank, the Oklahoma State University coach at the time, before going in a different direction in a career that wouldn't truly take off until he got to Chicago. 

"We're all looking forward to seeing how we pick up where we left off," Arrieta said. "Judging by what we've done this spring and the shape guys are in and the health – I don't see any reason we can't jump out to an early lead like we did last year and sustain it throughout the entire season."