Game Sixty-Eight – Cubs 3 Tigers 12
Like Ron Santo said earlier in the week, this year’s Cubs finds a new way to lose ball games everyday….and Sunday was no exception. The Cubs were swept at home and are now 12-20 at Wrigley Field this season. This sweep was the first time the Cubs had been held winless at home in a series of at least 6 games since 1997 (Florida Marlins, Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies) and for the 2nd time this season the pitching staff gave up 8 home runs….to tie a franchise record.
Mark Prior was horrible, he could not throw a breaking ball, they just would not break and the only pitch he could locate in the 1st inning was his fastball. Prior threw 39 pitches in the 1st inning; he gave up 6 runs on 4 hits, 3 home runs and committed an error. With the way the Tigers got out to the early lead anyone that has watched this team knew it was going to be a long afternoon. The Tigers scored 11 runs in the 1st inning during the 3-game series; the Cubs scored a total of 9 runs the entire weekend. Mark Prior could not make it through the 4 inning and surrendered 8 runs on the day, 7 earned, walked 1 and struck out 2 but it was the 4 home runs and lack of command and control that was alarming. Prior had problems last year with high pitch counts, nibbling at the plate and trying to throw the “perfect” pitch. On Sunday he could not consistently locate anything but his fastball and of the 4 home runs he allowed most were on fastballs left out over the plate. Several times Henry Blanco was setup inside, Prior could not hit his glove and the result was a lot of hard hit balls, mostly home runs….Prior threw 88 pitches, 53 for strikes.
Prior was not the only Cubs’ pitcher that could not keep the Tigers in the park on Sunday, Roberto Novoa gave up 4 runs, all solo home runs on 5 hits and the fifth hit was the first career double by Kenny Rogers in the 8th. Novoa pitched 3 1/3 innings in relief of Prior and took over where Prior had left off. Of the 13 hits the Tigers recorded, 9 were for extra bases….8 home runs. In the 3-game series the Tigers scored 26 runs on 37 hits with 10 home runs and their 11 first inning runs allowed them to play in front all weekend.
The Cubs could manage only 5 hits on Sunday and 3 were solo home runs, one by Henry Blanco in the 2nd, one by Aramis Ramirez in the 4th and one by Phil Nevin (his 4th as a Cub) in the 9th. Phil Nevin and Henry Blanco accounted for the other 2 hits and Juan Pierre reached in 3rd when Rogers hit him with a curve ball that Pierre “kinda” got out of the way of. Only 4 different Cubs reached base, not one reached 2nd and they left on two on base. Matt Murton continued his struggles with a 0-4 day and he is now 0 for his last 16. Henry Blanco was a standout all weekend he was 6-10 with 2 home runs, 3 RBI’s and 2 runs scored….he has a 5-game hitting streak.
The Cubs dropped to 16 games under .500 but the Twins did win again on Sunday, which keeps the Cubs out of the National League cellar. They hit the road on Monday for a 3-game series in Cleveland and a 6-game road trip that ends next Sunday in Minnesota with a day off in between the two cities. Will the Cubs make any changes to improve their play?