The Battle for Fourth Place


The Cubs returned home to Wrigley to start the final month of the season. They hosted the Pirates in a battle for fourth place and got off to an early lead thanks to a Carlos Pena homer, his 25th of the season. Ryan Dempster was able to tally nine strike outs, but he had an otherwise uninspiring start. The Cubs ace gave the lead right back in the third inning before grinding his way into the seventh.

Meanwhile, Pirates spot starter Brian Burres was able work his way through five innings before giving way to his bullpen, which kept the Cubs off the bases the rest of the way. The sleep walk like effort on Friday afternoon seemed to carry over from the last game in San Francisco, despite the off day in between.

Casey Coleman put in a good effort on Saturday, only giving up two runs while navigating through three walks and six hits allowed. The Cubs offense rallied for him to take a 3-2 lead in the fifth, but the Pirates got to Kerry Wood in the seventh to tie the game up. But Alfonso Soriano picked up his veteran teammate with a two run double in the bottom half to put the Cubs back on top 5-3. Soriano finished the day with four RBI.

Sean Marshall recorded his 30th hold of the season, but the wild Carlos Marmol appeared in the ninth. He sandwiched two walks and two strike outs after allowing a lead off single. Former Cub Derrek Lee provided the finishing blow, launching a grand slam to put the Pirates ahead for good, and giving Marmol his ninth blown save of 2011. Will the new General Manager of the Cubs see the closer as an untouchable like the last regime did? Stay tuned this off season.

At least the Cubs were able to salvage the series finale to avoid the sweep on Sunday. Randy Wells did not dominate like he did in his previous two starts, allowing seven hits this time around, but he was able to make pitches when needed to hold the Pirates to their lone run from the first inning.

In the mean time, the Cubs offense was able to wake up just enough to gather some RBI singles and productive run scoring outs to tally five runs between the third and sixth innings. The highlight was seeing call up Bryan LaHair finally get his shot with the Cubs. He finished the day going 2 for 4 with a RBI, but in an interesting move he had been put in left field by manager Mike Quade despite the hot day at the plate Soriano had on Saturday. The rookie was also put behind lefty first baseman Pena in the line up. While the veteran has not done anything wrong to warrant a rest, the Cubs need to see if LaHair can even be considered a fall back option for 2012 if they fail or choose not to pursue Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, or retain Pena.

Jeff Samardzija gave up a two run homer in the eighth, only the fifth has given up all season, and Marshall ended up closing out the ninth for his fourth save of the year. The Cubs maintain their fifth place standing in the NL Central as they next host the third place Reds.