Cubs fight back, claim wacky win over Mets

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Cubs fight back, claim wacky win over Mets

Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011Posted: 4:25 p.m.

Associated Press

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NEW YORK (AP) With first base open and the Cubs' best run producer at the plate in the ninth inning, Chicago manager Mike Quade was relieved to see the Mets pitch to Aramis Ramirez.Ramirez came through, too, hitting a two-run single with two outs, lifting the Cubs to a 5-4 victory over New York after they blew a three-run lead in the eighth Saturday."These are the decisions you live and die with," Quade said. "The question doesn't get asked unless Rami gets a base hit, does it?"Jason Bay had given the Mets a 4-3 lead in the eighth with a two-out, two-run single. But some more sloppy play by New York in the ninth on an overall rough day in the field and another meltdown by Bobby Parnell (3-6) helped the Cubs even a three-game series that will culminate with a ceremony Sunday to mark the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 911. The Mets are offering free tickets to New York City first responders and their families for that game.The Mets won the opener Friday night in the ninth after blowing a lead in the top half.Afterward, workers painted the logo being used Sunday onto the Citi Field grass in foul territory, about 50 feet down the first- and third-base lines: a stars and stripes rendering of the MLB logo laying on top of red and blue ribbons, encircled by the saying "September 11, 2001. We shall not forget."In the outfield, several dozen people constructed an enormous American flag out of red and white fabric strips. The blue and white stars section came in one piece that covered much of left field.The Cubs built an early 2-0 lead with help from two errors by Jose Reyes in a dog of a game through seven innings on Bark in the Park day, a benefit for the North Shore Animal league. There were 332 dogs in attendance along with 30,443 people.David Wright made his second error and New York's fourth of the game - the team's most since Aug. 4, 2010 - when he couldn't handle Geovany Soto's grounder leading off the ninth.Pinch-hitter Bryan LaHair doubled to put runners at second and third. Parnell then got two outs ahead of Ramirez. Collins considered walking Ramirez but he was thinking of his young closer."The one thing that enters my mind is I didn't want to put Bobby in that: He can't miss, I've got to throw that ball over the plate," Mets manager Terry Collins said.Ramirez then lined an opposite-field single to right for the go-ahead runs. Parnell has been given an opportunity to earn the closer role for the Mets but he has blown five saves in 10 chances."I feel like I didn't give him anything good to hit," Parnell said. "I got a groundball out of it. Unfortunately it was in the hole."Kerry Wood (3-5) earned the win even though he gave up two runs in the eighth in relief of Randy Wells, who pitched neatly into the eighth inning.Carlos Marmol gave up a one-out walk in the ninth but finished for his 34th save in 43 opportunities.Trailing 3-0 in the eighth and having wasted several opportunities against Wells, the Mets scored four times after pinch-hitter Willie Harris walked leading off, the third time they had the leadoff batter reach in four innings. Reyes followed with an RBI double to end Wells' day.Wood entered and gave up a hit to Ruben Tejada and an RBI single to Wright after striking out Lucas Duda. Angel Pagan struck out and Wright stole second without a throw when the count was 0-2 to Bay.Bay then lined a hit over leaping shortstop Starlin Castro for two runs, wasting another strong effort by Wells."All I care about is if the team wins," Wells said.Most of the dogs were gone by the time the Mets mounted their eighth-inning rally to take a 4-3 lead.Marlon Byrd had an RBI double in the eighth inning off Ryota Igarashi after Chris Capauno pitched seven impressive innings for New York to make it 3-0.Reed Johnson doubled and scored in the first when Reyes jumped to catch Jeff Baker's sharp line drive right at him but dropped the ball. Johnson then added an RBI fielder's choice in the fifth a batter after Reyes fumbled Starlin Castro's grounder before he tried to make a throw to second for a forceout."It's no one person's fault that you lose a game," Wright said. "Collectively there's a lot of things we could have done to win this game."Wells has not lost since July 28 when his ERA was 6.16. In eight starts since then, he has lowered it to 4.73. The right-hander didn't allow a baserunner until Mike Nickeas singled with one out in the third.Capuano rebounded from his worst start of the year in which he gave up six runs in four innings against the Marlins on Monday with seven solid innings. He gave up five hits and two runs, striking out six.Castro had two hits for Chicago to up his NL-leading total to 186.NOTES:
Mets LHP Johan Santana will make another rehab start, either in the minors or in a simulated game in New York. Collins said "we have no plans to see him here" this season. ... Quade said the "medical people will decide what's best for" RHP Andrew Cashner, who was activated from the 60-day DL on Monday. Cashner (strained right rotator cuff) hasn't pitched in the majors since being injured on April 5, his only outing of the season. ... Cubs RHP Matt Garza (8-10) faces RHP Miguel Batista (4-2) on Sunday.

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

MESA, Ariz. – Ben Zobrist is focused on a personal three-peat, not worrying about a changing of the guard or any awkward moments with Javier Baez. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has repeatedly said that Zobrist will be the primary second baseman and another "Javy Being Javy" highlight reel from the World Baseball Classic won't change that thinking right now.

Zobrist sees the big picture better than almost anyone else in the clubhouse after going undrafted out of Eureka High School in downstate Illinois, perfecting the super-utility role Maddon envisioned with the Tampa Bay Rays and helping transform the 2015 Kansas City Royals into World Series champions.

While Baez started all 17 playoff games at second base last year, bursting onto the scene as the National League Championship co-MVP, Zobrist became the World Series MVP with his clutch hitting and still has three seasons left on his $56 million contract.

Maddon didn't spare anyone's feelings during the playoffs, turning $184 million outfielder Jason Heyward into a part-time player, giving a quick hook to major-league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks and shunning relievers not named Aroldis Chapman.

"We haven't had an extended conversation about it," Zobrist said. "But at the beginning of spring, we talked about it. I think his words were: ‘I really think rest is the next improvement in player performance.' Learning what rest means, what good rest is for players and what kind of rest certain players need versus others.

"That doesn't necessarily mean just because you're 35. It could mean you're 25 and you still got to take care of yourself and make sure you're getting the proper rest. Because we have such a deep team, he's able to do that at any given point in time and still feel confident about the team we have on the field.

"It's a good problem to have when you have really good players not playing and sitting on the bench. We had that all last year and we had guys accept their role and just buy into the team concept.

"The makeup of this team is the same, basically. We've got a few new guys and they've got the same mindset, so I anticipate more of the same."

Injuries are one variable that prevents Maddon from getting too stressed out about dividing the playing time over 162 games while the NCAA tournament is still going. Zobrist's stiff neck felt good enough to hit leadoff and play right field in Tuesday afternoon's 10-7 loss to the San Francisco Giants, seeing his first Cactus League action since March 19.

Zobrist plans to play again on Wednesday in Mesa and catch up with more at-bats on the minor-league side of the complex. Assuming Zobrist and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell (stiff back) are ready for Opening Night, Baez will be an NLCS MVP, all-WBC talent waiting for the right matchup or break in the schedule or to sub in as a defensive replacement.

"It's pretty impressive, looking around at the young talent in this clubhouse," Zobrist said. "All throughout spring training, we've seen there's definitely other talent coming, so this team is poised to have a good, long run of success. If everybody stays healthy and we stay together, this is a very good team.

"The biggest thing that I go into the season with this year is we have to be healthy and we have to make sure that we don't relax too much. That's the temptation for teams that just won, to go: OK, well, we're tired, because we had a long season last year and you kind of just assume things are going to go as well as they did.

"You can't assume anything. No matter how good this team is, we have to still go out and execute and perform – and that's going to determine where we are in the standings."

In real time, as the Cubs experienced their lowest moments during last year's regular season, Zobrist correctly pointed out the exhaustion factor while the team played 24 days in a row, losing 15 of their last 21 games before the All-Star break.

What looks like overwhelming depth on paper should help the 2017 Cubs survive and advance into October.

"It's huge," Zobrist said. "It's up and down the lineup on offense. It's all throughout the pitching staff and on the defensive side. It's so deep that you can absorb a little bit of injury here and there.

"With that being said, there are certain guys that you just don't want to lose. So we got to protect everybody. We got to protect our horses – both on the mound and in the lineup – and just make sure that we have our key cogs in there. And if we do, we're as good, if not better, than anybody out there."

Cubs return Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to Yankees as roster comes into focus

Cubs return Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to Yankees as roster comes into focus

MESA, Ariz. - Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella - and a combination of right/left, outfield/infield and contractual considerations - appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

The Cubs returned Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to the New York Yankees on Tuesday and assigned injured non-roster players Jemile Weeks and Chris Dominguez to minor-league camp. That left 27 players still technically in the mix, though depth catcher Carlos Corporan isn't really part of that conversation.

The projected eight-man bullpen would look like this: Wade Davis; Koji Uehara; Pedro Strop; Hector Rondon; Carl Edwards Jr.; Justin Grimm; and lefties Mike Montgomery and Brian Duensing.

Szczur, who is out of minor-league options, could be a good fourth outfielder on a team that didn't have so much depth and World Series expectations, making him a potential trade chip for pitching. La Stella offers infield insurance and a left-handed bat off the bench.