Hill Rattled….Cubs Shutout Again

Game Twenty-Seven – Cubs 0 Diamondbacks 6

For the first time this season the Cubs dropped their third game in the row and are now just one game over .500….5 games behind the Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs were shutout for the third time in five games and only managed 8 hits. Dusty tried a different lineup on Thursday night, he moved Aramis Ramirez up to the third spot, put Todd Walker in the clean-up spot and started Freddie Bynum for the first time this season but Dusty got the same result he has seen too many times over the last five games….not much.

With the offense struggling, the Cubs needed a good outing from Rich Hill and that was not in the cards for Thursday. Hill was called up on Monday to replace Glendon Rusch in the starting rotation and he barely made it through the 4th inning. Hill could only locate his curve ball and gave up monster home runs to Chad Tracy and Damion Easley on high fastballs that he could not blow past the Diamondback hitters. In his first start of the season Hill left with an ERA of 11.25.

Rich Hill had a 13 pitch first inning and retired all 3 batters he faced….he really looked sharp, but in the 2nd inning is when the D-Backs started doing their damage. Connor Jackson had a leadoff double and scored on a single to right by Shawn Green (Green extended his hit streak to 10 games). Damion Easley grounded out to second on a good play by Freddie Bynum….Green advanced to 2nd and then stole 3rd off of Rich Hill. Hill was not paying attention to Green and he took the base and scored on a sac fly by Johnny Estrada. Matt Murton made a good throw to try to get Green at the plate….it was just late. Rich Hill then walked Andy Green on 4 pitches and Juan Cruz on 5 pitches. After a visit by Larry Rothschild, Rich Hill struck out Eric Byrnes to end the inning.

In the 3rd, Chad Tracy hit a solo shot for his 2nd in the series and it got out of Chase Field in a hurry. Ronny Cedeno committed his 6th error of the inning on a bad hop grounder off the bat of Connor Jackson but Cedeno and Bynum turned a very good double play to get out of the inning. In the 4th, Hill tried to get a fastball past Damion Easley and Easley hit a monster home run, the solo shot traveled 452 feet. Andy Green singled to right, moved to 2nd on a sac bunt by Juan Cruz and scored on a ‘hustle-double’ by Eric Byrnes. Byrnes hit the ball of the glove of a diving Ronny Cedeno and Byrnes hustled out of the box and stretched it to a double. Murton ended the inning on a good play off the bat of Orlando Hudson and saved a run.

Rich Hill finished the night in just 4 innings, giving up 5 runs on 6 hits, walked 2, struck out 1 and gave up 2 home runs. Glendon Rusch came in and pitched 2 perfect innings and struck out one….where has this been all year? The bullpen was very sharp until the 8th inning and retired 11 in a row at one point and did not allow a base runner from the 4 inning with 2 outs until 1 out in 8th. Will Ohman gave up a run in the 8th on a double by Conner Jackson that Matt Murton misplayed, a wild pitch, a walk and a sac fly by Damion Easley.

The Cubs left 11 on base again on Thursday night and were unable to capitalize on several opportunities they had throughout the game. Juan Pierre started the game with a single and stole 2nd base, but was picked off of 2nd on a good play by Johnny Estrada and Damion Easley. Easley snuck in behind Pierre and Estrada threw a perfect strike to end the inning with Todd Walker at the plate. Pierre was 3 for 4 with a walk and a stolen base, his triple in the 9th was a case of too little to late, but his strikeout in the 5th with runners on 1st and 3rd with just one out really hurt the Cubs.

Freddie Bynum had a good night in his first start, he was 1 for 3 with a walk and 2 stolen bases and played a solid 2nd base….Bynum is very fast and almost beat out a ground out to the hole at 1st. Bynum leadoff 3 different innings on the night….Jacque Jones was hitting in front of him. Ronny Cedeno could not get around on the fastball by Juan Cruz and finished the night 0-5; he struck out twice and left runners in scoring position three times….all with 2 outs.

The Cubs have to start being patient at the plate there were too many times on Thursday that they swung at the first pitch. Aramis Ramirez is in a huge slump and on two different times at the plate on Thursday, he swung at the first pitch and made an out. In the 4th inning, Juan Cruz actually retired Ramirez and Walker on 3 pitches and in the 9th inning, down by 6 runs, 3 of the 4 Cub batters that stepped to the plate swung at the first pitch and the only one that did not, Juan Pierre, hit a triple. Their struggles will continue until they put an end to the free-swinging.

Todd Walker was 0-9 on the series….Murton, Ramirez, Perez and Jones all had hits on Thursday.

The Cubs were swept for the first time this season and scored only 1 run on 18 hits in 2 games (the lone run was on a walk to Greg Maddux with the bases loaded)….they left a total of 22 runners on base. Juan Cruz pitched a fine game, but the Cubs in ability to string together hits was the reason they lost the game.

The Cubs head to San Diego for 4 games against the Padres and look to Carlos Zambrano to pickup his first win of the season and to end the 3-game losing streak.

Quote of the Day

"People who write about Spring Training not being necessary have never tried to throw a baseball." – Sandy Koufax