Hanging with Mr. Maddux

Game Sixty-Four – Cubs 4 Astros 5

Greg Maddux threw strikes….66 of them to be exact unfortunately he was unable to get the all-important third strike against many of the Astros hitters he faced. Maddux was able to get ahead of the Astros hitters on several occasions but his early problems finding the strike zone cost him and the Cubs the game. Maddux did not receive any help from his defense, Ramirez was credited with the only error but a misplayed ball by Matt Murton and a ball left on the ground by Ronny Cedeno cost him dearly in the run column. With the hole the Cubs have dug themselves they do not have the liberty to make many mistakes the rest of the season….mental or otherwise.

Roy Oswalt was not sharp either on the mound in his first start since returning from the DL but he was effective and allowed 3 runs, all single runs in 3 different innings, on 8 hits. The Cubs had their chances but as usual could not string together any hits….the three double plays the Cubs hit into added led to their second loss in a row and the Cubs are now 1-4 on the season against the Astros and 5-12 in 1-run games this season.

The difference in the game was the 3rd inning when eight Astros went to the plate and they scored 3 runs on 5 hits. Lance Berkman started the inning on a swinging bunt to Aramis Ramirez, Jason Lane followed with a double into the ivy in left that was misplayed by Matt Murton but the single to center off the bat of Roy Oswalt that was stopped by Neifi Perez kept the inning going and the Astros added another run. Adam Everett laid down a perfectly placed squeeze bunt to score Lane, the Astros 2nd run of the game. Oswalt was 2 for 3 on the night with a run scored.

Greg Maddux went 7 innings and gave up 5 runs on 11 hits, he did not allow a walk and struck out 1. Maddux retired the last 6 batters he faced but like the entire season, he dug himself into an early hole the Cubs could not recover from, the amount of base runners the Cubs are leaving on base on a nightly (or daily) basis is beyond ridiculous. The Cubs pounded out 11 hits but only managed 4 runs, the only walk they earned was in the 8th by pinch hitter Tony Womack and they left 5 on base. The Cubs were 3-9 with a sacrifice fly with RISP and 0-2 with runners in RISP with 2 out.

The offense could only plate 4 runs, the lack of clutch hitting with runners on base has been a problem….one the Cubs cannot seem to fix. Phil Nevin has been a bright spot in his short time with the Cubs. Nevin was 3-4 on the night with a run scored and an RBI. Nevin is hitting .345 (10-29) with 3 home runs and 6 RBI’s in 9 games. Michael Barrett also added 3 hits, extended his hitting streak to 6 games but was able to score just 1 run. The Cubs continue to get production from the middle of the lineup but the beginning and the end must improve. Juan Pierre is hitting, but not with the game on the line or to start innings. The lack of production out of the 2-hole, other Todd Walker early in the season, continues to be non-existent and Dusty’s insistence on playing Neifi Perez is leading to another losing season for the Cubs.

Neifi is a role player at best and does contribute from time to time but isn’t that the definition of a role player. Neifi is on pace to have just over 300 at bats this season and when a player of his caliber is receiving that much playing time the team he is playing for should be in last place….and with Wednesday night’s loss the Cubs have the same number of wins as the Pirates but are 2 ahead of them in the loss column. Neifi Perez should be DFA’d immediately and all of his belongings sent to him via UPS. What can brown do for you? Well in the Cubs case they can get rid of the 2006 version of Jose Macias.

Whether it was Maddux having bad location or the Cubs hitting into one double play after the other the fact is they continue to lose games they must win. I have said it for a while now, the Cubs keep saying everything will be better when they are “healthy” but by then it will not matter at this rate.

The Cubs are depending, once again, on Carlos Zambrano to salvage the last game of the series to avoid the sweep….with Glendon Rusch and Carlos Marmol scheduled to pitch the first two games of the Tigers series, Thursday is one the Cubs must not allow to get away.

Quote of the Day

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