Head Games and Another Blown Save

Game Forty-Seven – Cubs 5 Braves 6
Updated – 8:38pm C.T.

A complete game is usually referred to in pitching but with the Cubs this season a complete game should be used in terms of the entire team. There are too many games to try to count that they have lost and that loss could be traced back to one play or a series of plays and while the loss on Friday will be blamed on Ryan Dempster, and justifiably so, the loss against the Braves was a team loss….from top to bottom. The Cubs keep attempting to force plays that are not there and failing to make the ones that are, you cannot give a Major League ball team extra outs, or extra chances no matter how you phrase it, and expect to win….it will not happen.

Ryan Dempster could not find the strike zone on Friday afternoon and for the second time in less than a week he could not hold the lead in the 9th, the Braves capitalized on his lack of control and scored 3 runs to win the game 6-5. Dempster allowed 3 runs on 2 hits, 2 walks, a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly and 2 errors by Neifi Perez, both on the same play, to cost the Cubs and Carlos Zambrano a very big game….not necessarily in the standings, but in their heads.

All of the newspapers, talk shows and sites such as this will say that Dempster cost the Cubs the game and he was the sole reason for the loss on Friday and if they do….they will be missing the events that led up to the 9th inning debacle.

Carlos Zambrano pitched a tremendous game and at one point retired 14 straight after a horrendous 1st inning that saw him throw 36 pitches and give up 4 of his 6 walks on the day, including a bases loaded walk that scored a run. Zambrano settled in and despite the fact he threw 124 pitches he kept the Braves’ hitters off balance and off of the base paths until a 1-out walk to Chipper Jones in the 6th. Zambrano actually walked 2 in that inning but did not allow another run and kept the Braves hitless until 2 outs in the 7th inning.

Wilson Betemit pinch hit for Tim Hudson and hit a double off of Jacque Jones’ chest that he lost in the sun and then on a 1-1 pitch, Brian Giles singled to right to score Betemit and the Braves were on their way back, you could feel the momentum shift. Bobby Howry came in and retired Edgar Renteria to end the inning. Zambrano struck out 8 in 6 2/3 innings of work, allowed 2 runs on 2 hits and walked 6. Jones’ play got to Zambrano, as well as the pitch count, and Dusty did not have a choice to remove Zambrano from the game.

Howry, instead of starting the 8th inning fresh, went back to the mound in the 8th and walked Chipper Jones to leadoff the inning and Andruw Jones followed with a single to right, Chipper went to 3rd and Dusty went to the pen. Scott Eyre came in and got pinch hitter Brian Jordan to line out to Ronny Cedeno, who made a very good play to save a run. Jeff Francoeur stepped to the plate and hit a ground ball back to Eyre, he turned and sailed the throw to Neifi Perez, covering 2nd, Perez made a good play to record the force out, but he could not turn the double play, Chipper Jones scored and it was 5-3. Eyre struck out pinch hitter Matt Diaz to end the inning. Again extra opportunities and lack of fundamentals….Eyre had plenty of time to turn and throw, he felt rushed, thought he had to try and make a play and it cost the Cubs a very big run.

Ryan Dempster, like the rest of the Cubs, has had a nightmare of a month. Once thought of as a “sure thing”, after Friday Dempster has blown 3 of his last 4 save opportunities and in the month of May he is 0-3 with a 7.45 ERA. In 9 2/3 innings of work, Dempster has given up 11 hits, 8 earned runs, 6 walks and teams are hitting .314 against him.

On Friday Dempster gave up back-to-back singles to start the 9th to pinch hitters Pete Orr and Brayan Pena. With Marcus Giles at the plate, Dempster uncorked a wild pitch that advanced the runners to 2nd and 3rd and Dempster eventually walked Giles to load the bases. Edgar Renteria followed Giles to first via the free pass and Pete Orr scored to cut the lead to one. Dempster reached back and struck out Chipper Jones swinging and it looked like for a moment that the Cubs might escape the afternoon with a win. Andruw Jones then hit a sacrifice fly to deep right, Brayan Pena tagged to score the tying run and on the relay throw from Jacque Jones to Neifi Perez, Perez dropped the ball and the always hustling Marcus Giles rounded 3rd, Perez threw to the plate and the ball went over Barrett’s head, Giles scored and the Braves went up 6-5. Neifi was given 2 errors on the play and his lackadaisical reputation gave the Braves the go ahead run on a tag up from 2nd base. That is a terrible play by a so-called veteran, no fundamentals whatsoever and sums up the Cubs season to this point. Why was he even out there?

The Cubs did manage to score 5 runs on 12 hits, but again only 1 walk and left 8 on base including what turned out to be a huge run on 3rd in the bottom of the 8th. Yes the Cubs did not execute every play they should have, but what team does? The offense and starting pitching put the Cubs in line to win the game, too bad the defense and bullpen could not complete the task.

The Cubs scored in the 4th after a lead off single by Todd Walker. Walker moved to 2nd on a hit and run with Michael Barrett, Giles could not make the play. Jacque Jones, who is having a good month, doubled to score Todd Walker and Aramis Ramirez hit a bouncing ball to 3rd that scored Michael Barrett, Jones went to 3rd on the play….a nice piece of base running, Freddie Bynum struck out looking and after an intentional walk to Ronny Cedeno, the only one of the ballgame, Carlos Zambrano grounded out to Giles to end the inning. Good call and execution by the Braves and Tim Hudson.

In the 6th with 1 out, Aramis Ramirez singled and scored on a Freddie Bynum homerun to right, his second of the year. And in the 7th, Neifi Perez singled with 1-out and scored on a double by Michael Barrett. Jacque Jones struck out to end the inning. The Cubs scored 4 runs on 8 hits against Tim Hudson, his second worst outing of the year.

Every position player recorded at least one hit on Friday….the offense is coming around. Pierre recorded a hit, but cannot drive home the runs when his team needs him to, he left 2 on base again on Friday. Ramirez went 3 for 4 and both Walker and Barrett added 2 hits each. When you score 5 runs with Carlos Zambrano on the mound you should win the ballgame.

Cubs’ pitching gave up only 5 hits, but they walked 9 as a staff, including walking 2 with the bases loaded that resulted in easy runs, and the Braves were given just enough to win the ballgame. The Braves did not beat the Cubs on Friday, the Cubs gave them the game….one walk at a time.

Horacio Ramirez is scheduled to go for the Braves on the Fox Game of the Week against Sean Marshall on Saturday. If Ramirez goes, he is a lefty and one must wonder….how many second basemen will be in the game and out of position?

Quote of the Day

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." – Arthur Ashe