Close….But No Sweep For You

Game Fifty-Two – Cubs 2 Reds 3

Eric Milton out pitched Carlos Zambrano on Wednesday night and for the second time this season Milton beat Zambrano and the Cubs. The Cubs could only manage 2 hits against the fly ball pitcher with the wind blowing in through the first 7 innings and the comeback attempt fell short. Jacque Jones’ second home run in as many games got the Cubs to within a run, but they could not get any closer. The Cubs had the tying run at second and the go ahead run on first but Michael Barrett was unable to put wood on the ball and struck out swinging to end the inning.

The 6 hits on Wednesday ended the Cubs six game streak of double-digit hits. The Cubs reverted back to the lack of fundamental play that resulted in a 7-22 May, too many first pitch swings, no walks, a hit batsman, a wild pitch and no run support for Carlos Zambrano, who pitched an excellent game.

Carlos Zambrano did his job and held the Reds to only 2 runs and both came in the 6th inning. Ken Griffey, Jr. led off the inning with a home run to right, number 543 of his career and with 1 out, Zambrano walked Austin Kearns and Scott Hatteberg singled off of Todd Walker’s glove. With runners on 1st and 3rd, Zambrano hit Edwin Encarnacion and could not handle a ground ball off the bat of Jason LaRue, Kearns scored from 3rd, Zambrano got LaRue at 1st and struck out Eric Milton to end the inning. Zambrano could have easily finished the month of May with a 6-0 record, but will have to settle for 3-1. Zambrano gave up 2 runs on 4 hits, walked 3, struck out 6 and hit Encarnacion….he threw 101 pitches on the eve of his 25th birthday.

The difference in the ballgame was the run the Reds scored off of Scott Eyre in the 7th. Ryan Freel led off the inning with a triple and scored on a single to center by Griffey. Roberto Novoa got Scott Hatteberg to ground out to end the inning. Novoa looked shaky at best, but Bobby Howry, Will Ohman and David Aardsma were very effective out of the pen and gave the Cubs a chance for the comeback….that fell just short.

The offense could only manage 2 hits over the first 7 innings off of Eric Milton, both singles to center by Juan Pierre….who was unable to advance to second base either time because of the lack of patience by Neifi Perez. In the 1st inning, Pierre actually stole 2nd base twice, but because of Neifi’s foul bunt and fly out to left, ended up stranded at 1st. Why did Neifi not give Pierre a chance to get into scoring position either time? In the 6th inning Neifi actually grounded out to Milton on the first pitch he saw, is that his game?

In the bottom of the 8th Matt Murton led off the inning with a double, the first Cub to reach 2nd base on the evening and only the 3rd hit of the game. Jacque Jones then stepped to the plate and hit a line drive home run over the left center field wall into the wind. Ronny Cedeno hit a grounder in the hole at short and was thrown out at 2nd on a horrible bunt attempt by Freddie Bynum. Bynum popped the ball up, Encarnacion trapped it and easily threw out Cedeno at 2nd. Pierre flied out to left, Neifi had an infield single and with the tying and go ahead runs on base, Barrett struck out swinging and actually threw his bat at the 3rd strike. Todd Coffey retired Aramis Ramirez, Todd Walker and Matt Murton on 7 pitches in the 9th to end the game.

The Cubs were 1-2 with runners in scoring position but made Eric Milton throw only 92 pitches and Coffey threw only 12….that is 104 pitches….11.5 pitches per inning. The Reds made Zambrano throw 101 and the Cubs as a staff threw 163….18.1 per inning. Todd Walker ended his 7 game hit streak, Tony Womack pinch hit in the 6th and ended his 4 game hit streak, but is still 8-17 (.471) with the Cubs….why was he on the bench again?

After tonight’s loss, here are stats that MUST not be ignored:

- In games that Neifi Perez has played in, but not started the Cubs are: 4-12
- In games that Neifi Perez has started, the Cubs are: 5-15
- In the 36 games Neifi Perez has played in, the Cubs are 9-27
- The Cubs season record after Wednesday night’s loss is 20-32
- In the 16 games that Neifi Perez has not played the Cubs are 11-5, 6 games over .500

The Cubs have Thursday off and start a 10 game road trip on Friday in St. Louis that will go through Houston and conclude next weekend in Cincinnati. Sean Marshall will go to the hill on Friday and Phil Nevin is set to join the Cubs in St. Louis, they could have used the threat of his bat on Wednesday.

Quote of the Day

"Baseball is drama with an endless run and an ever-changing cast." - Joe Garagiola
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