With a 3-6 record, including a loss yesterday despite leading 5-0 at one point, and going up against one of the top starters in the league in Matt Cain today, it would have been easy for Carlos Villanueva and the Cubs to go into the game already feeling a sense of defeat. But Villanueva and his top notch mustache went toe to toe with the Giants ace to breathe some life back into the home team.
After allowing a single to ex Cub Angel Pagan to lead off the game, Villanueva proceeded to set down the next 12 batters before allowing another harmless single in the fifth inning. By no means does the former Blue Jay have overpowering stuff, but the righty has been a pleasant surprise to the end of the rotation despite being predestined for the bullpen based on the off season pitching signings. The mustached man would end up going 7 1/3 strong, limiting the visitors to three hits and one walk while striking out three, dropping his early season ERA to 0.64. With his array of off speed stuff, Villanueva was able to keep Giants hitters off balance all day.
Cain was able to grind out a respectable outing, but the Cubs offense was able to get to him just enough to support Villanueva with a small lead. The Cubs center fielder started the game 2 for 2 against the Giants ace, starting the Cubs half of the first with a double. After being left stranded in that frame, David took matters into his own hands and hit his first homer of the season into right field. Cain would head back to the team hotel later in the evening as a converted believer of DeJesus.
Starlin Castro provided a solo job in the bottom of the fifth to make it 2-0 Cubs. After having to settle for some near home run changes all homestand, Castro made sure this one cleared the vine covered wall. With the way Villanueva was pitching, it was looking more and more like the limited run support would actually hold up.
James Russell eventually helped Villanueva finish the eighth, coaxing an inning ending double play with Giants on the corners. But the Cardiac Cubs bullpen created final inning drama again for the home fans. Kyuji Fujikawa slowly began to unravel in the top of the ninth. With one out he served up a double before allowing a RBI single to Kung Fu Panda. The Japanese closer then hit Buster Posey with a pitch to put runners on first and second.
After getting a fielder’s choice play for the second out, Fujikawa left a breaking ball over the plate to Brandon Belt. The Giants first baseman drove it down the right field line and the speedy Hunter Pence just got in at home to beat the relay throw and put the visitors up 3-2.
After the gut wrenching blown leads we have seen all week, I must admit I was ready to begin drafting the recap of another Cubs loss. But back up catcher Dioner Navarro had other plans. On a 0-1 pitch, the pudgy left handed hitter put his back into one that carried into the right field bleachers, rewarding the Cubs faithful that had remained despite another blown lead and the overcast weather.
But the drama did not end there. Giants closer Sergio Romo was able to get the next two outs and had DeJesus down to his last strike. The hot hitting lefty of the day hit a sinking liner to center that Pagan was not able to slid and catch. That set the stage for Cubs phenom Castro to take another crack at a walk off win. Earlier in the homestand he had come up warning track short on a game winning grand slam against the Brewers. The short stops’ error in game one against the Giants opened the door for a game long comeback effort by the defending champs. But on Friday afternoon, Castro shook all that off to play the role of hero for his teammates and fans. Castro lofted a deep fly to center field that Pagan was not able to track before it caromed off the vines.
With two outs in the inning, DeJesus took off with the crack of the bat and had raised his right arm in victory thinking the ball would carry into the seats. Regardless, the veteran center fielder kept running and made it home for the winning run.
I’m not sure if I got indigestion from some spicy Mexican salsa during lunch, from this wild and crazy Cubs win, or a combination of both, but here is hoping for a more comfortable win for the Cubs on Saturday to put the North Siders in position for a series win. Regardless, it was nice to see the Cubs be on the winning side of a blown save after the week they have had.