Another Close Loss

Game Nineteen – Cubs 4 Brewers 5 – 12 innings
WP – Carlos Villanueva (1-0) LP – Rocky Cherry (0-1) Save – Derrick Turnbow (1)

While there is no such thing as a must win in April, Monday night’s loss really has to hurt. Carlos Zambrano left the game in the 6th inning with a 4-2 lead but Scott Eyre gave up 2 runs in the 8th and Prince Fielder hit a game winning home run in the 12th off of Rocky Cherry, who was making his Major League debut. The Cubs had runners in scoring position in 4 of the last 6 innings with plenty of opportunities to add to their lead but were unable to score any runs after the 3rd inning.

The Cubs are now 0-3 in extra innings and 0-5 in 1-run games, they have yet to win a game this season decided by 2 runs or less (0-8).

Besides keeping Henry Blanco on his toes all night, Carlos Zambrano threw the ball well early on. He struck out Rickie Weeks to start the game and retired the first 4 Brewers he faced before giving up a single to Johnny Estrada, who was erased on a double play….through the first 2 innings, Zambrano had faced the minimum. After striking out Gabe Gross to lead off the 3rd, Craig Counsell doubled but did not score. While Zambrano was not throwing the way he is capable, he was still being effective.

J.J. Hardy homered to left center to lead off the 4th but Zambrano struck out Prince Fielder….with a little help from Henry Blanco. Blanco could not hold onto strike 3 on Bill Hall and he reached 1st base but Estrada flied out to Jacque Jones in center and Geoff Jenkins grounded out to short to end the inning. Zambrano’s M.O. this season has been to melt down after a home run or a bad defensive play….on Monday night he did not.

Zambrano walked Gross to lead off the 5th and with 1-out, Tony Gwynn, Jr. singled to center to cut the Cubs lead to 4-2. Zambrano struck out Rickie Weeks but a wild pitch moved Gwynn to 2nd and he walked Hardy. Prince Fielder grounded out to Derrek Lee to end the inning. In the 6th, Zambrano struck out Bill Hall to start the inning….the last out he would record. Johnny Estrada walked and Jenkins singled to center to chase Zambrano from the game. Will Ohman retired Gross on a fly out to right and struck out Counsell to end the inning….Ohman looked sharp and of the 10 pitches he threw, 9 were for strikes.

Zambrano threw 103 pitches (62 strikes) in 5 1/3 innings, gave up 2 runs on 5 hits, walked 3 and struck out 7. It was a solid start for Zambrano but his team needs more from him right now….it is a tough spot being the ace of a pitching staff.

Michael Wuertz threw another scoreless inning and on the year has not allowed an earned run. Scott Eyre is a different story….Eyre blew his 2nd save of the year, could not throw strikes and gave up the lead in just 2/3 of an inning and received more “F-bombs” from Lou Piniella than could be counted. Eyre gave up 2 runs on 3 hits, walked a batter and struck out 1 while throwing 19 pitches, 11 for strikes. The home run he gave up to Prince Fielder led off the inning and cut the Cubs lead to just 1. Eyre struck out Bill Hall but walked Damian Miller on 4 pitches. Jenkins singled to left on a 0-2 count. Gross flied out to Jacque Jones in right, who made a VERY good throw to hold the runners (it was a one-hop throw to Ramirez at 3rd) but Counsell singled to right to score Miller and tie the game. Bobby Howry came in and Jones made a great diving catch in right to end the inning off the bat of Kevin Mench….he retired the Brewers in order in the 9th as well.

Ryan Dempster threw the ball very well and besides a walk to Gabe Gross in the 11th, he gave the offense time to win the game. Rocky Cherry made his Major League debut in the 12th and after retiring J.J. Hardy, Prince Fielder hit a home run to right that landed in the basket and popped out. Piniella will get a lot of heat for putting Cherry in that situation but the bottom line is Scott Eyre should have thrown strikes and Cherry’s debut should have been saved for a later day….

The Cubs were able to score in the 1st inning off of Claudio Vargas. Alfonso Soriano made his left field debut on Monday and singled to left to start the Cubs half of the 1st. Cliff Floyd walked and Derrek Lee singled to right to score Soriano. Aramis Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly to right to plate Lee and the Cubs were up by 2. In the 3rd, Soriano singled to right to lead off the inning and scored on a double by Derrek Lee. Lee however was thrown out trying to steal 3rd and Aramis Ramirez hit his 200th career home run over the left field wall. The Cubs did not score again on the night despite numerous opportunities.

In the 7th, Izturis walked to lead off the inning and Felix Pie reached on a very bad bunt attempt. Pie popped the ball up toward 1st but the ball landed in between Fielder and Estrada. Fielder slid into the legs of Estrada and he left the game. With Soriano at the plate a wild pitch advanced Izturis and Pie but Soriano struck out on a check swing….the ball actually hit him, Piniella argued but Soriano was out. Matt Murton pinch hit for Cliff Floyd and grounded out to 3rd. Lee followed but after getting ahead in the count, 2-0, he struck out swinging on a 3-2 count.

In the 8th, Ramirez walked on 4 pitches to lead off the inning and Jones popped up another bunt attempt….the Cubs need a bunting clinic. With 2 outs, Daryle Ward pinch hit for Henry Blanco and the Brewers intentionally walked him. Cedeno pinch ran. Michael Barrett pinch hit for Izturis and was robbed of at least a single by Geoff Jenkins who made a great catch in left. Felix Pie doubled off the right field wall in the 11th but was stranded at 2nd.

The Cubs had plenty of chances and with Zambrano on the hill….this was one they needed to win, especially being up 4-0 early on.

Rich Hill is scheduled to start Tuesday night against Jeff Suppan, once again the Cubs will be asking Hill to end a losing streak and go deep in the game….not too much pressure.

Quote of the Day

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anais Nin
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