Cubs Strop the Giants in their tracks
Jul 3, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielderNate Schierholtz
(19) hits a triple during the third inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.Co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Nate Schierholtz seems intent on driving his trade value through the roof.
The journeyman outfielder continued his recent tear, clubbing a solo home run off Giants closer Sergio Romo (3-6) to break a scoreless tie in the top of the ninth inning Saturday night.
After eight scoreless frames, the Cubs rallied late once again, beating San Francisco for the second straight night, this time by a 1-0 final.
For the second straight night, the Giants attempted to rally in the bottom of the ninth. Cubs closer Kevin Gregg allowed a leadoff single to Joaquin Arias, and then issued back-to-back walks to load the bases. A sharp ground ball by Tony Abreu was hit at Anthony Rizzo at first, who quickly threw home for the force. Dioner Navarro gunned it back to Rizzo, and that’s all she wrote.
Once again, the Cubs let the air out of the Giants’ quickly-deflating balloon.
A pair of mental miscues by Cubs reliever Pedro Strop (1-3) pushed the Cubs to the brink in the bottom of the eighth, but heads-up defense and some key pitches turned a bases-loaded, nobody out situation into yet another scoreless frame for Chicago pitching.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Strop entered in relief of Rusin, who threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and striking out three. San Francisco pinch hitter Gregor Blanco drew a leadoff walk to open the frame. Torres laid down a sacrifice bunt, and Strop attempted to force out Blanco at second, but made a low throw, allowing both runners to reach.
Marco Scutaro followed that with another sacrifice bunt, this one down the third base line. Strop picked the ball up, and looked to third, and the hesitation allowed the Giants second baseman to reach, loading the bases with the heart of the order due up with nobody out.
After a nine-pitch at-bat, Buster Posey, the reigning NL MVP, hit a slow roller to shortstop. Starlin Castro threw home to force out Blanco for the first out of the inning. Pablo Sandoval, 0-3 on the night, grounded to Rizzo, who again threw home to force out the lead runner. A relay throw from Navarro back to first was late, thus keeping the bases loaded for San Francisco. Strop then set down Hunter Pence on strikes to end the threat, and keep the game scoreless.
Neither team had a runner reach third base until the bottom of the seventh, when Pence reached third base after hitting a ground-rule double to lead off the frame. However, Rusin retired the next two batters Anthony Rizzo made a leaping grab on a liner down the first base line off the bat of Brandon Belt to end the inning.
Rizzo continued to struggle offensively, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Castro added a pair of hits in the winning effort, as he continues to heat up with a .344 average over the course of the past week. The team had just one at-bat with a runner in scoring position, and as a testament to the quality of pitching featured Saturday, the Cubs failed to capitalize. San Francisco, in similar fashion, went just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
The Cubs and Giants meet tomorrow afternoon for the series finale, as Chicago goes for the sweep of the defending World Champions. National League All-Star left-hander Travis Wood (6-7, 2.95) will oppose Tim Lincecum (5-10, 4.73 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. CDT.