Cubs manager Mike Quade is an inveterate horse player. So it was no wonder he alluded to the Kentucky Derby right after his team pulled out a 3-2 win in the ninth inning Saturday over the Cincinnati Reds.
"And for an encore, the greatest two minutes in sports," Quade said. "You guys know how I love the Derby. I don't even care. What a finish. Who. You guys ask. That's unbelievable."
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The ninth inning rally from a 2-1 deficit no doubt got Quade off the hook for going with some of his horse-playing instincts.
Carlos Pena led off the ninth against Reds closer Francisco Cordero by lining a home run to right. It was Pena' first Wrigley Field homer and his third as a Cub. After some goofy machinations, Kosuke Fukudome finally ended it with an RBI single to center.
More on that in a bit.
Quade and the Cubs got just what they needed from starting pitcher Casey Coleman, who went 6 innings and had a 1-0 lead. At that point, I turned to a press-box colleague and said Quade would probably get the kid out of there feeling good about himself after throwing 91 pitches at that point and assuring himself a quality start.
But Quade decided to stick with Coleman, who walked Chris Heisey leading off the seventh and then gave up a single to Ryan Hanigan, putting runners on first and third.
Now, everybody's in a tough situation. Kerry Wood came on and gave up an RBI forceout and later a run-scoring single to Drew Stubbs.
That's a blown save for Wood, putting Coleman on the hook for a loss. Quade stood his ground.
"Ninety pitches, a 3-hit shutout, I'm not that smart," he said. "I looked at a 95-pitch outing the last time and figured he was good enough to get us into the seventh. I had Woody ready. The problem with that, for right or wrong to me, if I'm going to let him pitch the seventh, I'm not pulling the cord. He's going to get two hitters. Otherwise, he shouldn't go out."
Coleman survived a couple of early jams before working efficiently in the middle innings.
"I felt fine," he said. "No excuses to walk Heisey right away. Falling behind on 2-0 and then throwing a close pitch on 3-1, you're not going to get the call when you fall behind."
Quade's lineup and bench-maneuvering hunches paid off later, though, and he was able to cash a winning ticket. In the lineup Saturday was little-used Blake DeWitt, who gave the Cubs their 1-0 lead in the fourth with a homer. One out after Pena homered in the ninth, DeWitt hit a solid single to center.
Tyler Colvin struck out before the Cubs experienced all kinds of highs and lows. Quade went with right-handed hitter Jeff Baker to pinch hit against righty Cordero. Baker skied one to deep center. Center fielder Drew Stubbs got turned around, and the ball fell. Unfortunately for the Cubs, it hit the warning track in deep-right center and bounced over the 11½-foot wall.
DeWitt, who would have scored easily, had to go back to third on the ground-rule double.
"I don't think I've ever seen a ball bounce at Wrigley like that," Baker said.
It didn't matter. Fukudome hit a 2-2 pitch back up the middle, allowing DeWitt to "score" twice.
"The first time I scored, I really didn't know what happened," DeWitt said. "The last think you'd expect here is a ground-rule double at this park. You just don't see it very often. It's an unfortunate hope, but it all worked out."