Misplayed Opportunities

Game Eight – Cubs 2 Astros 4
WP – Chris Sampson (1-0) LP – Jason Marquis (0-1) Save – None

What a long, sloppy game…. The Cubs were shutout again by Chris Sampson for the first 5 innings on Tuesday in his first start of the year. The Astros jumped all over Jason Marquis in the 1st with 3 runs on 4 hits with Luke Scott delivering the big blow of the inning a 2-run double. The Cubs defense did not help Marquis’ effort, they committed 3 errors, misplayed balls in the outfield and failed to turn would be inning ending double plays.

Angel Guzman had another good outing out of the pen. Scott Eyre pitched a perfect 9th and the two gave the Cubs’ offense opportunities to post a comeback win. After scoring 2 in the 9th and with the tying runs on base, Dan Wheeler retired Matt Murton to end the game.

After hitting Alfonso Soriano in the hand to start the game, Chris Sampson allowed just 3 other base runners in his 5 innings of work. The Cubs were able to get the lead off runner on in the 1st and 2nd innings but Sampson was able to erase both runners with a double play. The Cubs offense managed 7 hits on the day but just one extra base hit, a double to lead off the 9th by Jacque Jones. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez extended their hitting streaks and Cliff Floyd added 2 hits but the top of the lineup is not getting on base for the heart of the lineup to drive them in.

Sampson was very impressive and kept the Cubs off balance all afternoon. In 12 career innings against the Cubs he has yet to allow a run and only given up 6 hits. Rick White and Chad Qualls did not allow a hit or a walk in their 3 innings of relief. The new Astros’ closer, Dan Wheeler, took over in the 9th. After the Jones double, Derrek Lee singled to right center to end the shutout and in the process posted the first back-to-back hits for the Cubs offense since the 6th inning of Sunday’s game against the Brewers. Aramis Ramirez struck out swinging but Cliff Floyd kept the inning alive with a single to right. Michael Barrett looked at strike three and Mark DeRosa singled up the middle to score Lee. Matt Murton pinch hit for Cesar Izturis and popped out to Lance Berkman to end the game.

The top of the lineup has to start getting on base…. Soriano’s average for the season is right on the Mendoza Line.

The Astros were able to put away the game in the 1st inning for the second day in a row. Morgan Ensberg doubled with 1-out and advanced to third on a single by Lance Berkman over the head of DeRosa. Carlos Lee drove in the first run of the game with a single to right. Luke Scott doubled over the head of Soriano in center to score Berkman and Lee. Marquis retired Chris Burke and Adam Everett to end the inning.

Marquis retired the next 4 in a row before walking Berkman in the 3rd….he was likely pitching around him and he struck out Carlos Lee and retired Scott on a ground out to short. In the 4th is when the game became very sloppy. Chris Burke reached 1st on a throwing error by Cesar Izturis and Everett reached on an apparent throwing error by Marquis….the error was given to Izturis for not catching the ball. With runners on 1st and 2nd, Ausmus grounded into a double play to end the threat.

In the 5th, Craig Biggio reached on the third error of the day by Izturis….he bobbled the ball. Ensberg grounded into a fielder’s choice that advanced Biggio to 2nd. Marquis walked Berkman and Lee to load the bases. Scott hit what looked like an inning ending double play, but DeRosa was only able to throw out Scott at 1st, Biggio scored. Marquis then issued his third walk of the inning to Chris Burke to load the bases again but Everett popped out to Derrek Lee to end the inning.

Marquis allowed 4 runs, 3 earned on 4 hits in 5 innings of work. He walked 4 and struck out 3. Marquis did not throw strikes but he did keep the ball down….91 pitches, 47 strikes, 9 ground ball outs to just 3 fly ball outs. The extra opportunities the Cubs gave the Astros was the difference in the game. The Astros made the plays when they had to in order to win the game.

Tuesday was the 45th anniversary of the first meeting between the Cubs and the Houston Colt 45′s, too bad the wrong team is celebrating.

Rich Hill will try to salvage the last game of the series on Wednesday against Wandy Rodriguez. The cold weather looks to be in Chicago to stay for the next week, Wednesday’s forcast….38 degrees and 100% chance of rain or snow. The weather man says the thermometer at Wrigley will not reach 50 degrees until next Tuesday….maybe Sweet Lou’s temper will heat up the clubhouse and the bats.

Quote of the Day

"A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course of victory." - Arthur Golden
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