After another could of, should of, would of loss on Monday night, the Cubs sent Carlos Villanueva and his sub 2.00 ERA to the mound to take a shot at shutting down the Reds offense. And as he has done all April long so far, he masterfully orchestrated his mixed bag of pitches to keep the home team off balance all night. Other than a Chris Heisey solo homer in the third, the Reds could not do much against the Cubs righty.
Mean while Alfonso Soriano decided that today was Throwback Tuesday. After collecting a single to lead off the second frame, the former 30-30 man proceeded to not only swipe second base but steal third base on back to back pitches. With the help of a Scott Hairston sac fly, Soriano almost manufactured the Cubs first run by himself.
March 19, 2013; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney (15) celebrates with the team after hitting a solo homerun in the second inning during a spring training game against the Texas Rangers at HoHoKam Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Cody Ransom made his debut as a Cub, getting the start at third base, and he made sure that any Brent Lillibridge comparisons after his 0 for 11 2013 start with the Padres was squashed in his first at bat in royal blue. Ransom lined a pitch just over the right center field wall to put the Cubs up 2-0. He would later add a double to finish the night 2 for 4.
Villanueva would go eight innings with only three hits and one walk allowed. He was given the chance to finish what he started, a rare occurrence for Cubs starters in recent seasons, before getting squeezed by the umpire on a bottom of the ninth inning lead off walk to Shin Soo Choo. After a sac bunt put the runner at second with one out, Villanueva’s complete game bid ended in favor of Carlos Marmol.
The move to bring in the former Cubs closer was a play with the odds. Joey Votto was 1 for 15 with nine Ks against the Cubs righty, but of course in tune with the early season struggles of the North Siders, the Reds slugger made it 2 for 16 and a tie ballgame. Marmol would walk the bases loaded before getting the final out and escaping further damage.
That sent the game into extra innings for the second straight night and set the stage for someone to be the hero. That honor was grabbed by Darwin Barney when he drove a pitch into the left field seats, marking his first homer of the 2013 campaign and the first long ball of his career outside of Wrigley Field.
But the Cubs did not stop there. Pinch hitter Julio Borbon was credited with an infield single and reached second base on an errant throw by the Reds. The speedy former Ranger then swiped third base before Dave Sappelt provided a positive result on offense for once, driving in the insurance run to make it 4-2 Cubs.
The center fielder’s base running blunder would prevent further damage and the Cubs turned to veteran Kevin Gregg to try to nail down the elusive save. Before the Marmolcoaster there was the Dreaded Gregg back in 2009. Thankfully for the Cubs fans that have stuck by the Cubs through this rough stretch, Gregg was able to escape the bottom of the 10th despite allowing a pair of one out singles, striking out Votto to close out the game.
The Cubs have evened up the series against their division leaders and will send ace Jeff Samardzija to the mound on Thursday afternoon to shoot for a series win that has only been done once this season; against the Pirates in the season opening set.