The final day of June featured another pitching duel between the Cubs and Giants. Except this time it was the Cubs bullpen versus Matt Cain. San Francisco’s second ace lived up to his reputation, shutting the Cubs out through seven innings while only allowing four hits. The Cubs countered with Carlos Zambrano, but the stocky right hander had to leave the game in the second inning due to issues with his back.
Things could have easily unraveled from there, but Marcos Mateo stepped up in his team’s time of need and tossed a nearly flawless five innings of work that saw only two hits allowed while striking out six. Mateo has looked good in his two appearances since his recall from the minors. The young pitcher has always had good stuff; it was just a matter of throwing strikes and hitting his spots. Hopefully this is a sign that he has figured it out for the long run. Considering that he threw five innings, it is not too much of a stretch to wonder if he can have a look as a spot starter now that Doug Davis has been released. Mateo has some starting experience in recent years in the minors even though he was pretty much exclusively a reliever in the farm system in 2010. The Cubs have already seen the subpar results of trying to peg James Russell and Casey Coleman into that role, so it may not hurt to give Mateo a shot. The down side would be the possibility of confusing Mateo’s identity like the team did with Jeff Samardzija, delaying Mateo’s development as a reliever.
The previously mentioned Samardzija and Russell teamed up with Sean Marshall to keep the pitching duel going, with all three providing hitless one inning outings each. That bought time for some offensive heroics from the hot hitting Aramis Ramirez, who hit a homer off Giants tough guy closer Brian Wilson to tie the game (video courtesy of MLB.com). It was only Wilson’s third blown save of the season.
Carlos Marmol had two near perfect innings of work to prevent the Giants scoring in extra innings John Grabow single handedly almost blew the game up in the top of the twelfth. The struggling lefty issued a lead off walk, which is a baseball sin, and if that was not asking for enough trouble, he walked the second batter as well. The Giants gifted him an out with a sac bunt to move the runners over to second and third before Grabow was instructed to intentionally walk Miguel Tejada to load the bases. After letting the Giants walk all over him, Grabow some how managed to get the next two batters to fly out, getting out of self imposed jam.
Grabow was the reverse in the lucky thirteenth inning. He got two quick outs on five pitches to start the frame, but then served up the go ahead homer to Pablo Sandoval. But for some reason the Cubs refused to lose the game, even after going down two outs in the bottom of the thirteenth. Jeff Baker got the two out last gasp rally going with a double and Darwin Barney hit a single to drive Baker in, advancing to second on the throw. The Giants opted to walk Starlin Castro to get to the pitcher’s spot in the order, and manager Mike Quade countered by having Geo Soto pinch hit. With Chris Carpenter being the only reliever left in the pen, the Cubs needed to end the game sooner rather than later, and Soto made Quade look like a genius when he launched a 3-2 pitch into the left field bleachers for the walk off three run home run (video courtesy of MLB.com). Soto had not offered at any of the five pitches he saw before making his lone swing count.
As bad as the team has played overall this season, the last two games have been really entertaining for Cubs fans. Holy cow.