Game Eighty-Three – Cubs 2 Astros 7
Mark Prior had clearly his best outing of the season…. early on he was sharp and had command of his breaking ball and fastball. But all of the Astros’ runs off of Prior were scored with 2 outs and the two runs in the 6th was scored on a wild pitch, the same wild pitch. Of the Astros 7 runs, 4 scored after reaching base via the walk or a hit bats man. The Cubs inability to find the strike zone continued to hurt them on Tuesday and the Cubs staff gave up 8 free passes. The Cubs dropped their 7th in a row to the Astros and are now 23 games under .500….a new season low.
This was a very sloppy game on both sides, the Cubs had plenty of chances against Andy Pettitte but were able to score just 1 run in 6 innings against the southpaw. The Cubs pounded out 7 hits and recorded 4 walks against Pettitte and of the 11 base runners, again they were able to plate just 1 run. The Cubs out hit the Astros 10-8, but that has become commonplace on the Northside of Chicago this season….to out hit your opponent and lose the game. The game was closer than the final score indicates. Glendon Rusch took the hill in the 8th and nine Astros came to bat, they scored 3 runs on 3 hits and Rusch walked 3 as well. The Cubs must designate Glendon Rusch for assignment as soon as possible and quit wasting a roster spot on a pitcher that clearly cannot throw strikes, whatever shot they may have had in the 9th was killed by Rusch being inserted into the game. Rusch was brought into the game in the 8th after what was a very strange double switch in the 7th to bring in Bobby Howry. Dusty brought in Henry Blanco for Barrett and one would think with that move Howry would have been brought back to pitch in the 8th, but not on Tuesday after the double switch Howry only faced one batter.
Andy Pettitte was not sharp on Tuesday and several times the Cubs had chances against Pettitte. Juan Pierre stayed hot and was 3 for 5 on the day, Derrek Lee also added 3 hits on the day but the heart of the order was not able to pick Pierre and Lee up. Aramis Ramirez left 6 on base on Tuesday in route to his 0 for 4 day including runners in scoring position twice with 2 outs. Ramirez, Barrett and Nevin left 11 on base and as a team they left 10 on base. The Cubs bailed Pettitte out of a lot of trouble, Pettitte time after time threw the ball on the outside of the plate and instead of going with the pitch to the opposite field the Cubs continued to try to pull everything. The Cubs really helped Pettitte; he did not earn the victory the Cubs handed it to him. The Cubs continue to help the opposition by swinging at first pitches and balls out of the strike zone. They did record 4 walks on the day but there were more opportunities for extra base runners and chances for the Cubs to score runs….they continue to have trouble taking advantage of opportunities provided by the other team, that would explain their record this season.
The Cubs keep finding ways to lose and Tuesday they found a way that I had never seen before. In the 6th inning Preston Wilson doubled with 1 out, Morgan Ensberg walked on 4 pitches, Adam Everett also walked to load the bases. Prior got Brad Ausmus, who is in the middle of a 0-39 slump, to hit a soft liner to Neifi Perez for out number two. Orlando Palmeiro came in to pinch hit for Andy Pettitte, Prior threw a wild pitch that got past Barrett, Barrett hustled threw the ball back to Prior, he dropped the throw and both Preston Wilson and Morgan Ensberg scored on the same wild pitch.
Prior showed a lot of improvement and gave up only 3 earned runs in 6 innings….a quality start. The Astros recorded only one extra base hit, the double by Wilson, and 4 hits total on the day against Prior. The 4 walks and the hit batsman (Willy Teveras in 3rd) hurt Prior as two of the walks and the hit batsman all scored. Prior still must work on his command as 59 of his 109 pitches were for strikes, but his velocity was constant from the beginning to the end of the game. Like last season Prior needs to start closing the innings, all 4 runs he allowed were with 2 outs. Prior has now lost his last 6 in a row; the last time he won was September 10th against the Giants. Tuesday’s loss was not Mark Prior’ fault, as stated he pitched a good game.
Henry Blanco hit a solo home run in the 9th for the second run on the day for the Cubs off of Brad Lidge.
Sean Marshall takes the mound on Wednesday night in the series finale against Roy Oswalt….hopefully the boys in blue can salvage the last game of the series.