It's times like these when you fire up some pre-game motivational music. Old-school Survivor on your big foam headphones for the veterans on the team, "Eye of the Tiger," "Moment of Truth." Perhaps something from "High School Musical" for
and the kids.
Whatever you like, whatever it takes.
It's the moment of truth, it's all on a line. This is the place, this is the time. Waiting forever, it's now or it's never. Nothing can stop you now.
Well, except for the last-place
, against whom
are 5-7 this year.
Paul Maholm, unbeaten in five starts against the Cubs this season, goes for the Bucs. To refresh: the Cubs are 16-22 against left-handed starters. Maholm uses his left hand.
toes the slab for the Cubs. Ribs anyone? Marquis, by the way, has never missed the playoffs in his career.
Nine games to go. One-and-a-half-game lead over the Brew Crew. What could possibly happen?
If history is any indication, "A lot."
As the autumnal equinox looms, it's close to 90 degrees on this penultimate day of summer. Your wind-blown
The Pirates arrived at 10 p.m. yesterday. Do they still make their rookies spray paint the horse testicles on that statue? The wind is blowing out. Ball one to Nyjer Morgan. Morgan hitst he second pitch into center for a single. Morgan runs on the first pitch to Nate McLouth, just beating
's throw. The Highlander, McLouth walks. Freddy Sanchez flies out to
in right. Morgan tags and takes third. Now the speedy McLouth steals second. Soto throws down but Morgan stays put on third. The Cubs will now walk Adam LaRoche with first base open and Xavier Nady on deck. Nady takes a ball and then fouls one off. Nady chops one to a drawn-in
, who flips to second to get one but there's no time to get the runner at first.
Jose Bautista slices one to right. Murton goes back and snares it. Good play, especially for him.
Pirates 1, Cubs 0
I don't think Ramirez had a play at home on that ground ball.
Soriano launches the first pitch into the left-field bleachers to tie the game.
That's his 10th leadoff homer this year and the second in two games. Whenever it happens Len and Bob always ask why would anyone start him off with a strike? Good question. Maholm grazes
with a pitch to bring up
with a runner on and no outs. Lee pokes a single through the hole on the right side.
Ramirez crushes -- CRUSHES -- a three-homer to left that may have bounced down Kenmore and stopped rolling at Grace Street.
Murton chops one towards
and the great gold-glove winning shortstop boots it off the heel of his glove. Of course it's scored a hit in Wrigley. Sorry, but that's an error. Soto flies out to center for, yes, the first out. Monroe misses an inside curve for strike three.
singles to left. Bryan Bullington is up in the pen for the Pirates as Marquis, the ninth hitter of the inning, digs in. Marquis strikes out looking at a curve on the outside corner.
Cubs 4, Pirates 1
Catcher Ronny Paulino grounds out to DeRosa at second. Izturis -- where's
again? -- lines one to center. Monroe runs to his right, dives, catches it for a moment and it pops out as he hits the ground. He never really had it. Izturis ends up on second. Marquis returns the favor and strikes out Maholm. Morgan may be chewing on a sock. Either that or he's storing some nuts away for winter.
He singles to right, scoring Izturis from second.
Morgan takes off for second again, but this time Soto throws him out.
Cubs 4, Pirates 2
Soriano leads off the second, which is always a good thing. This time Maholm starts him with a curve that's no where near the plate. Maholm recovers and strikes him out. DeRosa grounds out to the great Cesar Izturis. Lee rips a two-out double down the line past a diving Bautista.
Ramirez bounces a routine grounder to the great Izturis, who throws way wild to first and Lee hustles home, sliding in safely.
Wonder if that will be ruled a hit. Murton grounds out to Sanchez.
Cubs 5, Pirates 2
OK, I guess it's the Giants who paint --or used to paint -- the statue, as some really smart reader on the message board points out. Anyway, they used to make the rookies paint a certain part of the statue of Gen. Phillip Sheridan at Belmont Avenue and
. They would use bright red spray paint, too. McClouth singles to center. Sanchez flies out to Murton, who makes a minor adventure of it, having to reach up at the last second to grab it. With LaRoche, Soto's snap throw to first nearly gets McClouth. He dove back just in time. LaRoche doubles down the right-field line, just off the line by the bullpen, in fact. They hold McClouth at third.
Nady grounds to DeRosa. McClouth scores on the play.
Bautista doubles down the left-field line scoring another run.
Paulino singles to center.
Bautista scores to tie it.
Monroe's throw home is wide and cut off by Marquis, who throws wild to second to get Paulino. But Monroe backs up the play, so the runner can't advance to third.
Izturis triples to right, scoring Paulino.
All of this is happening on the first or second pitch. They're jumping all over Marquis. Major action the Cubs pen, double barreled. And that's it for Marquis. Lefty
trots on and I'm sure that makes everyone breathe a bit easier. Wait a second... OK, we're back. Maholm bunts and pops it up over the mound and head of Ohman where it falls safely.
Izturis scores and Maholm reaches.
That's just a weird, unfortunate play. Morgan grounds out to end a nightmare of an inning.
Pirates 7, Cubs 5
Soto leads off the bottom of the third with a sharply-hit single to left. Monroe fouls off a few pitches before lining a single to left. Soto to second. Theriot rips one deep to left, off the top of the wall, scoring ... what the? Mike Quade holds Soto at third. So off the wall in left and it's a long single to load the bases. To load the bases for ...
, who bats for Ohman. Ugh. I take that back. Cedeno lines a single to right-center.
Soto finally scores.
Monroe rounds third and Quade holds him up, but the Pirates throw to third. They were giving the Cubs that run. That's it for Maholm. Bases loaded. Enter Franquelis Osoria, who starts off Soriano with two straight balls. Soriano pops it way up and the third baseman Bautista gloves it on the mound. DeRosa bounces one down the third base line but just foul. He then takes a pitch on the outside corner for strike two. DeRosa fights off a pitch to stay alive. DeRosa strikes out and the catcher Paulino and Osoria start to walk to the dugout, but there's two outs, guys. Of course, with no one covering the plate, Quade's in la-la land and wouldn't send Monroe. Seriously, what is this guy doing down there?
A pitch to Lee goes to the backstop and stunningly Monroe is able to score.
The ball bounced back past Paulino and nearly to the mound. Theriot thought about trying to score but stopped. Now second and third with two outs to Lee. Lee sends one deep to to right-center but Morgan snatches it out of the ivy for the third out. The Cubs get two but you just gotta think they should've gotten more.
Cubs 7, Pirates 7
takes over in center for Monroe and Kevin Hart comes on to pitch. Hart strikes out McClouth. Hart then strikes out Sanchez with a slider away. LaRoche draws a walk. Hart's nibbling away on the outside corner to Nady, unfortunately he keeps missing. The count goes to 3-1 but Hart comes back and gets a strike. Nady runs on the 3-2 pitch, which is outside for ball four. Sorry, that was Nady. Here's Bautista and Hart gets ahead of him 0-2. Bautista flies out to Pie for the third out. The Cubs finally prevent the powerful Pittsburgh Pirates from scoring.
So Izturis hurt his elbow or something and he's out. Matt "Gym" Kata takes over at short for the Pirates and handles Ramirez's grounder for the first out. Murton strikes out. Soto rips one but Bautista robs him of a hit with a diving stab at third. For symmetry's sake, the Cubs goes scoreless in the fourth, too.
Cubs 7, Pirates 7
Hart fans Paulino with a slider low and away. Kata bounces out to second and the pitcher Osoria will hit for himself.
gets up in the Cubs' pen. Osoria grounds back to Hart, who makes a bare-handed stop and throws out the runner. Must've picked that up from
For those of you listening to the radio wondering about
, they said he's at home sick with the flu. Pie leads off the bottom of the fifth and takes a fastball for strike one. Two pitches and two strikes later, Pie's walking back to the dugout. Theriot bounces out to third. With the pitcher due up,
was in the ondeck circle but Piniella calls him back and sends out .. Sam Fuld! Here he is, everyone. The dawn of the Fuld era arrives and let's hope it doesn't start like the Adam Greenberg era did. Fuld grounds out but tries to play like he bounced it off his foot or something. I'm a bit confused. He didn't run. Regardless that's the end of the inning. More scoreless action!
Cubs 7, Pirates 7
Ha, yes, Geez on the board. I agree. I, too, am no fan of home plate umpire Tim McClelland's super-casual, ho-hum delayed strike call. It's like he can't be bothered. Morgan grounds out to second. McLouth flies out to Pie. Sanchez walks. Oh, right, Scott Eyre is and has been pitching.
is up in the pen. LaRoche bounces out to DeRosa and Eyre has himself a 1-2-walk-3 inning.
Soriano bloops a single to left. DeRosa drives one down the left-field line but it lands foul by a couple of feet. I thought that was fair off the bat. DeRosa lines out to short. Soriano gets back to first without drawing a throw. Lee grounds to Kata at short, but Kata's throw goes right off Sanchez's glove and everyone is safe. That was a double play waiting to happen.
Ramirez rips another three-run homer to left that gets out in a big hurry.
He knew it, he watched it, he flipped the bat. Ramirez takes a curtain call and Osoria takes a hike. We go to commercial. Murton grounds to the hole. Kata back-hands and tries the ol'
leaping throw but Murton beats it out.
Soto swings at the first pitch and sends a two-run, wind-blown Wrigley homer to left field.
Pie grounds out to second. Theriot pops out to Sanchez near the Pirates' bullpen but the Cubs get five runs on two taters.
Cubs 12, Pirates 7
Dude, where's Koyie Hill? I really liked that guy's bat.
comes in on the double switch to play right and bat ninth. Marmol to pitch and he strikes out Nady with that slider of his. I don't know what the crowd keeps chanting. Is
's gamecast always this worthless? I thought I was slow. Marmol walks Bautista. Marmol thought he struck out Paulino with a 2-2 slider, but McClelland just stands there. But he gets him with a 3-2 slider and again McClelland takes his times getting around to punching him out. "Oh, was that a strike? Do I lift my arm and go like this?" Kata's ground ball goes right through the legs of Derrek Lee and Bautista takes third on the error. Josh Phelps hits for the pitcher and Marmol strikes him out.
's widow Dutchie to sing TMOTTBG to a tape of Harry's singing it -- or something like that. It's not going so well. And again I'm confused. Won't be the last time. Pass the Dutchie.
Bautista robs Jones of a hit with another diving snag at third. Bryan Bullington is the Pirates' new pitcher. Soriano flies out to shallow left. DeRosa grounds one to Bautista, who makes a really fancy pick going backwards. He spins and throws wild to first. DeRosa takes second on the Pirates' third error of the day.
Lee follows with a single to left that scores DeRosa.
Ramirez gets a bit hand, rips into the first pitch and nearly hits his third homer of the day, but McLouth catches it on the track in the well.
Cubs 13, Pirates 7
is the new pitcher. Morgan flies to left where Soriano makes his little leap as he catches it. McClouth pops one foul down he left-field line. Theriot hustles over, slides but it's just out of his reach. Strike one. ... and strike three on a big curve right down the middle. Shades of the old Wood: He fans Sanchez with a slider in the dirt.
Really? Koyie Hill was DFA? And here I thought the Cubs were carrying four catchers. Speaking of which,
hits for Wood and tries to bunt himself on. Sure. The pitcher Juan Perez handles that and Blanco's out. Soto walks. Pie walks, which is good because I'm not sure he would hit himself on. Theriot breaks his bat and grounds into a 6-4-3, inning-ending double play. We go to the ninth and I'm hungry.
Cubs 13, Pirates 7
will try and close this one out. He's got LaRoche, Nady and Bautista. He gets LaRoche via the strike out.
No such luck with Nady, who jacks a homer to left.
And they're already booing Dempster. Tough crowd. Full cout to Bautista and he fouls it back and immediately drops an F-bomb that was clearly audible on TV. He does it again but this time without the sailor talk. Bautista singles to left. Smattering of boos. Paulino hits it to shallow left; Pie charges and makes the play. Everyone's up. Dempster makes a bare-handed stop of a Kata comebacker, throws to Lee and this one's in the bag.
Final: Cubs 13, Pirates 8
That's it everyone. Thanks for reading. We'll be back next Thursday for a 3:05 p.m. start against the