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.

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Clubhouse frustration bubbling up for Cubs and Jake Arrieta

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PITTSBURGH — We interrupt your regularly scheduled coverage of The Plan and that wacky, fun-loving Cubs team to bring you a snapshot of clubhouse frustration.

Jake Arrieta sounded defensive while talking to reporters after Wednesday night’s 8-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, standing in front of his locker and second-guessing manager Joe Maddon. On the other side of the room, veteran catcher Miguel Montero questioned the way the Cubs are preparing for the playoffs with Cactus League scripts.

The postgame questions started with Arrieta’s first-inning issues with umpire Chris Guccione’s strike zone. When reporters mentioned Maddon’s positive spin on a seven-run outing, Arrieta dismissed those happy-talk answers about his stuff — “it just wasn’t crisp” — and then wondered why he went from throwing to Montero to rookie Willson Contreras.

“The feeling of the game, from the first pitch, just wasn’t there,” Arrieta said. “Switching catchers just felt like we were trying to do a little too much instead of win a ballgame. But I didn’t throw well, no way around it.”

Montero went with a similar passive-aggressive tone, riffing on how the Cubs will maintain their edge almost two weeks after clinching the National League Central title and nine days before their first playoff game at Wrigley Field.

“Did it feel like spring training?” Montero said. “I do believe that. And that’s not a good feeling for a pitcher, for a player, to go into a game knowing that you’re going to play just four innings or five innings or whatever it is.

“This game is still important for all the players. It’s still important for every single guy. I don’t want to go out there not caring about winning or losing. That’s not my mentality. My mentality is going out there because I want to win, regardless.

“We have to trick our mind. Because if that’s how we’re going to go the rest of the way, I guess we need to trick ourselves.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Unprompted, Montero brought up the Pirates scoring three runs in the ninth inning on Tuesday night before the Cubs hung on for a 6-4 victory — without using Aroldis Chapman — as Maddon tries to keep the bullpen fresh for the playoffs.

“We didn’t have our closer warming up,” Montero said. “That’s something I take personally because I’m catching and I want to win.

“It’s hard. I understand (Joe’s) point. And I understand the organization’s point. I respect it. I can only control what I can control. It is what it is.”

OK then, the Cubs are still a 101-win team and the NL’s No. 1 seed. But this became a sharp contrast to all the backslapping after the pregame announcement of Theo Epstein’s monster contract extension. And Arrieta didn’t look like a reigning Cy Young Award winner, giving up 10 hits while John Jaso — who does look like a Pirate — lined a curveball into the right-field seats for a three-run homer in the fourth inning and hit for the cycle.

“We’re moving on,” Arrieta said. “We’ll prepare for the next one. I don’t like giving up seven runs. I’m pissed about that. But moving forward, everything’s fine.”

With Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks lined up at the front of the playoff rotation, Arrieta’s next start is almost two weeks away.

“It doesn’t matter,” Arrieta said. “I’ll throw sides. I’ll prepare. And whoever I face first round — they’re going to be in trouble.”

After burning through 103 pitches in five innings, Arrieta’s regular-season odometer is now at 197 1/3 innings, but he has zero interest in a gimmick that would get him to 200 this weekend against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

“Listen, I want to pitch on a schedule,” Arrieta said. “I don’t want to throw an inning in a game. I’m not trying to do anything different. Let’s just prepare like we normally do and go out and try to win games. I’m not trying to throw a bullpen in a game.”

Look, if this isn’t trouble in paradise, then it’s obvious that the Cubs are a hyper-competitive group that knows what’s at stake in October and has some independent thinkers and strong personalities. And that Arrieta’s unreal 2015 season created impossible standards for this year that couldn’t be met with an 18-8 record and a 3.10 ERA, the type of numbers that still get pitchers $200 million contracts.

“I don’t think you know how hard this game is unless you play it,” Arrieta said. “I feel I can have another season like that. People have done it before. Why can’t I do it? I can do it again. So, yeah, I appreciate it. But at the same time, that’s what you strive for. That’s why you work hard. You go out and you try to perform that way.”