Z Meltdown

Game Nine – Cubs 5 Reds 6
WP – Todd Coffey (1-0) LP – Carlos Zambrano (1-2) Save – David Weathers (4)

“What the hell do you think isn’t working? You see the damn game.”….was Lou Piniella’s response to George Castle’s question following the Cubs loss to the Reds on Friday afternoon. The Cubs and especially Carlos Zambrano were very impressive through the first 4 innings of the game. They were hitting the ball, stealing bases and playing good defense despite being without Aramis Ramirez and Mark DeRosa in the starting lineup. On the mound Carlos Zambrano had allowed just 1 hit while at the plate he had hit a double and scored run as well as leading off the 4th inning with a long ball of his own into the basket in left center….all appeared good at 1060 West Addison.

When the Cubs took the field in the 5th inning, the bottom of the lineup for the Reds was due up and the Cubs had rattled Aaron Harang to the point of Jerry Narron lifting him for a pinch hitter, the Cubs looked well on their way to ending a 3-game losing streak and posting the first win of the season at Wrigley. But a leadoff single by Juan Castro and a misplayed ball in center changed the course of the entire game….

Other than a walk to Josh Hamilton and a single by Ken Griffey in the 1st inning the Reds offense was very quiet in the beginning of the game. The Cubs appeared in full control, especially with their ace on the mound. Zambrano did issue 3 walks in the first 4 innings but he had retired 6 in a row and for the most part was throwing strikes.

After the Castro single to lead off the 5th, Jerry Narron pinch-hit for Aaron Harang with Chad Moeller who hit a fly ball to center. Alfonso Soriano initially broke back on the ball before racing in and nearly colliding with Ronny Cedeno….Soriano actually fell awkwardly to the ground as he tripped over the leg of Cedeno. Zambrano threw two quick strikes to Brandon Phillips before throwing four straight balls to walk the bases loaded. Hamilton followed with a single to right to score Castro and Moeller. Adam Dunn singled to left center to score Phillips and was followed by a double to right by Ken Griffey Jr….still no outs and the Cubs lead was trimmed to 5-4. Zambrano hit Edwin Encarnacion to load the bases….again. Everything changed within a blink of an eye. Piniella went to the pen for Will Ohman and Zambrano was done for the day.

Last season after the Cubs traded away Neifi Perez, Will Ohman requested a number change and was granted good ole number 13 and on the Friday it proved to be very unlucky for the Cubs. Ohman walked Scott Hatteberg on 4 straight pitches to tie the game and walked Javier Valentin on 5 pitches to give the Reds what would prove to be the winning run. Ohman threw just one strike out of 9 pitches. Piniella went to the pen again, this time for Michael Wuertz….still no outs.

Wuertz was amazing; he threw strikes….a lot of them in fact and struck out the side with the bases loaded and gave the Cubs a chance to rebound from what had just unfolded. Of the 11 pitches Wuertz threw, 9 were for strikes. Even with the impressive performance of Michael Wuertz, the day was over after the latest North Side debacle.

Neal Cotts, Bobby Howry and Scott Eyre did not allow a hit to the Reds in the final 4 innings, struck out 8 and walked just 1 but the offense could not rebound from the Reds 6-run 5th inning. Zambrano lost it and lost it in a hurry. The Reds put up 6 runs on 6 hits, and walked 4 times in 4+ innings while striking out just twice against Zambrano. Will Ohman’s performance was inexcusable but many tried to blame it on the fact he had little time to get loose.

The Cubs were without Aramis Ramirez and Mark DeRosa. Ramirez woke up on Friday morning with a swollen wrist and was scheduled to see a specialist on Friday. The injury apparently happened sometime in spring training. DeRosa on the other hand had a sore back but did appear in the game. The offense looked very good early on but could not string hits together late in the game to post a comeback.

Jacque Jones singled with 2 outs in the 1st inning, stole 2nd and scored on a Derrek Lee double to left center. Michael Barrett followed with a single to center to score Lee and after a Cliff Floyd single put runners on 1st and 3rd, Ronny Cedeno grounded out to short to end the inning. In the 2nd, Carlos Zambrano doubled to left with 1-out and scored on a bloop single to right by Ryan Theriot. Jones walked but Lee grounded out to end the inning.

In the 4th, Zambrano led off the inning with the Cubs first home run of the season at Wrigley….the ball dropped into the basket in left. Soriano followed with a high pop up to center that Josh Hamilton lost in the sun and the hustling Soriano made it to 2nd. With Theriot at the plate, Valentin lost a ball momentarily and Soriano advanced to 3rd and scored on a single up the middle of the drawn in infield by Theriot. With Jones at the plate, Theriot stole 2nd but was stranded when Harang retired Jones and Lee to end the inning.

Friday’s loss is one the Cubs have to forget and move on from but unfortunately one that usually has long lasting effects. The last time the Cubs lost their first 3 at Wrigley to start the season was 1997.

Rich Hill is scheduled to take the hill on Saturday against Bronson Arroyo, the young Mr. Hill will have the tough task of ending the Cubs 4-game losing streak against a Reds team this organization cannot seem to figure out.

Quote of the Day

"You can’t sit on a lead and kill the clock. You’ve got to give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game." - Earl Weaver