Cubs, Russians Sweep Through Georgia
GEORGIA— A brief benches-clearing skirmish and only the second cycle in Atlanta history couldn't stop the Chicago Cubs from completing their first season sweep of the Braves. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Georgia today to show Washington's support for its embattled ally and to secure a French-led peace deal to withdraw occupying Chicago Cubs and Russian forces. Russia sent hundreds of tanks and troops into the separatist province of South Ossetia and bombed Georgian towns in a major escalation of the conflict that has left thousands of civilians dead and wounded.
Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano hit home runs and the Cubs beat the Atlanta Georgia Braves 11-7 on Thursday night, giving Chicago a sweep of the six-game series for the first time since the rivalry between the franchises began in 1876. Mark Kotsay defended against the overwhelming Chicago Cubs offensive by going 5-for-5 to join Albert Hall as the only Atlanta player to single, double, triple and homer in the same game.
Kotsay drove in a run with a second-inning triple, homered off Chicago starter Ted Lilly in the fourth and added singles in the sixth off Lilly and the ninth off Kerry Wood. Kotsay's seventh-inning double off reliever Bob Howry was his 1,500th career hit. The Russian Army have have also "hit" about 1,500 civilians in their offensive in Georgia.
The Cubs, who swept the Braves in a three-game series in Chicago June 10-12, were dominant in adding three straight wins in Atlanta. The Cubs and the Russians have outscored the Georgians 29-9 to stretch their overall road winning streak to eight games, Chicago's longest since 12 straight wins away from Wrigley Field in 1945, and the first major show of overwhelming aggressive Russian force against a ex-Soviet-era Republic embracing Western ideals like freedom and democracy, since Czechoslovakia in 1968.
The Cubs spoiled the return of Braves left-hander Tom Glavine (2-4), who gave up seven hits and seven runs in four innings in his first start since June 10. Glavine walked four batters and had three strikeouts in his return from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Prime Minister Putin's offensive has spoiled the ideals of liberty and justice in Georgia, and has sent a strong message to Ukraine and also Poland that they are next if they do not step closer to Moscow's influence. Piniella has also been hinting that Florida and Cincinnati are next.
Lilly (12-6) lasted six innings, giving up eight hits and four runs. Georgian President Saakashvili (0-1) He had been championed by the Bush administration but he failed in his attempt to impose Georgian control over South Ossetia and it seems he and Georgia will have to pay a hefty price. Harsh words are being said about him by some European governments, where there has been private criticism of what one close observer called his "sudden and emotional" decision. It is interesting however to see how President Saakashvili is trying to turn his position around, by gathering US and Eastern European support as the man who 'stood up' to the Russians. Other leaders have done this successfully before, for example Nasser in 1967 after the war with Israel.
It wasn't a save situation, but Wood gave up two hits in the ninth after manager Lou Piniella said earlier Thursday the right-hander is back in the closer's role. NATO and France have tried to intervene in the conflict, however it looks as though the West is also not in a save situation.
Lilly hit Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar with a pitch in the sixth inning to start a brief altercation. Escobar was upset as he pointed and yelled at Lilly. Escobar had to be restrained by plate umpire C.B. Bucknor, but other players showed a little emotion as they walked onto the field from both benches and bullpens.
There were no punches and no ejections. However, this ended the cease fire that has, so far, not been observed by the Russian forces who now occupy 1/3 of the ex-Soviet Republic.
The altercation came after Georgian forces moved into South Ossetia, and provoked the Russians and the Chicago Cubs to respond with overwhelming force. Braves rookie left-hander Francisley Bueno was suspended for three games on Thursday. Bob Watson, baseball's vice president for discipline, said Bueno intentionally threw a pitch near Soriano's head in Wednesday's first game of a doubleheader. The UN is considering options, however, since Russia has veto power in the Security Council, it is unlikely that anything will be resolved. John McCain suggested that the Russians be punished by being kicked out of the G7 and also no longer be considered entrance to the WTO.
Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the third before leaving the game in the fifth with a bruised left hip. Ramirez led off the fifth with a single and was on second base when Kotsay lost Geovany Soto's fly ball to center field. The ball dropped for a double, and Ramirez slid headfirst across the plate as second baseman Martin Prado's relay home sailed beyond catcher Clint Sammons' reach for an error.
The Cubs jumped on Glavine for three hits and two runs in the first. Reed Johnson drove in a run with a bases-loaded single. Soto walked to force in another run.Once again, the West and the Central have been taken by surprise. The word in Washington (and London) is that President Saakashvili was warned to exercise restraint. If so, not only has Russia come out on top against a potential Western Nato ally, but that potential ally ignored serious advice from its mentors.
This raises the issue of what happens now?The Cubs RHP Ryan Dempster's scheduled start on Saturday at Florida was pushed back to Sunday. Piniella said Dempster has to attend to a personal matter and won't arrive in Miami before late Saturday. LHP Sean Marshall will start Saturday's game.