Cubs out to end long series with sweep
Chicago (5-3) at Pittsburgh (3-5), Thursday, 6:05 p.m. CT
PITTSBURGH -- Make sure you take a nap sometime in the afternoon. At the rate the Cubs and Pirates are going, the series finale may last 18 innings.The Cubs will try to complete a sweep on Thursday -- if they have anybody left. After playing 12 innings on Monday, the two teams needed 15 frames Wednesday. In case you didn't stay up late, Felix Pie hit a two-run single with two outs in the 15th for a 6-4 victory over the pesky Pirates. Lou Piniella may make some last-minute changes in the series finale. Left-hander Rich Hill was originally slated to start, but Piniella would prefer to have Jason Marquis go -- but that's only if Marquis is over the flu. Marquis was sent back to the hotel on Wednesday. Because of Tuesday's off-day, both would be pitching on enough rest. The Cubs would prefer to have Marquis start because the Pirates are batting .311 so far against left-handed pitchers compared to .254 against righties. One pitcher who won't get in the game is Carlos Marmol. He's pitched in six of the Cubs' eight games so far. "I told him, 'Tomorrow, you stay in the dugout,'" Piniella said of the right-hander. "He's not even going out to the bullpen." That's not all the tweaking. Ronny Cedeno made his second straight start at shortstop on Wednesday, but Ryan Theriot could be back in the lineup. Theriot has a sore left hand, caused by a checked swing. It's not serious, and he downplayed the injury. Right-hander Matt Morris is starting for the Pirates, and Piniella may insert a few more lefties in the mix, putting Pie back in center and starting Mike Fontenot at second and Daryle Ward in right. Or, Kosuke Fukudome could switch from right to center to keep Reed Johnson in the lineup. Confused? Don't be. It's just Piniella thinking out loud. "We either get Pie in center and Fukudome in right, or I'll talk to Fukudome and put him in center for a day and put Ward in right," Piniella said. "I'm thinking either way." Johnson started on Wednesday, his fourth consecutive start. "As long as he's playing well, why not?" Piniella said about playing Johnson, acquired March 25 after being released by the Toronto Blue Jays. That doesn't mean Pie is forgotten. The young outfielder was batting .200 in seven games. It's a tough call -- the organization wants to develop young players but also wants to win. "You do both," Piniella said. "You develop and win at the same time. "We can't look at what he does solely," Piniella said of Pie. "If everyone else is hitting the ball well, you can carry a guy who is struggling a bit. Let's get to that point first." Wednesday's marathon took 4 hours, 20 minutes. Even Carlos Zambrano got a chance to pinch-hit. "It's two games in a row when we've gone through just about everybody," Piniella said. "But so have they." Let's see who's last man standing on Thursday.
CHC: LHP Rich Hill (0-0, 3.00 ERA)
Hill was slated to start but, Marquis will get the nod if he's OK. Marquis was sidelined with the flu. The Cubs didn't want to send another lefty vs. the Pirates. Marquis was 2-1 with a 5.18 ERA last year in four starts against Pittsburgh. Hill gave up two runs on four hits and three walks over six innings in his first start of the season, and pitched well. The problem was one of those walks came with two outs and J.R. Towles followed with a two-run homer. It's all part of growing pains for Hill. He didn't get much run support, something he had to deal with last year as well. The lefty ranked second in the Majors in lowest run support in 2007. Maybe he needs to take his teammates out to dinner. PIT: RHP Matt Morris (0-0, 5.40 ERA)
Morris wasn't fooling the Marlins in his first start. The veteran right-hander was knocked around for eight hits and four runs in five innings. Florida pushed him to throw 98 pitches. Morris continues to try to tinker with his delivery and needs to improve locating his fastball. In 30 career appearances against the Cubs, he's 12-8 with a 4.50 ERA. Tidbits
Derrek Lee is 11-for-31 lifetime against Morris with four homers, Aramis Ramirez is 15-for-46 with three homers, and Alfonso Soriano is 5-for-9 with one homer. ... Ramirez needs one home run to reach 149 with the Cubs, which would move him past Mark Grace for 11th on the all-time list. ... Fukudome and Lee rank fifth and sixth in the Major Leagues in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage). ... Johnson did get his official MLB identification card on Tuesday, but there is one problem: He's wearing a Toronto Blue Jays cap. He had no problems getting into PNC Park on Wednesday. ... How did Fukudome spend Tuesday's off day in Pittsburgh? He went shopping. Tickets
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Friday: Cubs (Jason Marquis, 0-0, 6.75) at Phillies (Brett Myers, 0-1, 6.30), 6:05 p.m. CT
Saturday: Cubs (Carlos Zambrano, 1-0, 1.32) at Phillies (Cole Hamels, 1-1, 1.20), 6:05 p.m. CT
Sunday: Cubs (Ted Lilly, 0-1, 9.72) at Phillies (Jamie Moyer, 1-0, 4.66), 12:35 p.m. CT
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.