What Now?

Game Forty-Six – Cubs 8 Dodgers 9
WP – Rudy Seanez (2-0) LP – Will Ohman (0-2) Save – Takashi Saito (15)

After being silenced by Derek Lowe in the first 5 innings, the Cubs offense showed signs of life in the 6th inning and took out their recent frustrations on the Dodgers’ bullpen in the 7th. The Cubs scored 7 runs on 8 hits, a walk and an error and erased an early 5-0 deficit. Carlos Marmol and Michael Wuertz did their job in relief of Ted Lilly, who had his first bad outing of the season.

When Bob Howry took the mound in the 8th the Cubs were ahead 8-5 and appeared to be on their way to an impressive comeback against one of the best teams in the National League. After the inning was over, the Dodgers had scored 4 runs on 5 hits, a walk and a wild pitch and once again the bullpen turned a would be win into a deflating loss.

What will be lost in the bullpen’s latest debacle are the outings turned in by Carlos Marmol and Michael Wuertz. Marmol did not allow a run in his 1 2/3 of relief and while it might not have been perfect, Marmol was effective. Michael Wuertz on the other hand sat the Dodgers down in order in the bottom of the 7th after the Cubs had taken the lead in the top of the inning.

Bob Howry could not record an out and gave up singles to the three batters he faced to load the bases. Howry’s pitches floated right over the plate and the Dodgers took full advantage of his lack of command. Russell Martin led off the inning with a single to right, Luis Gonzalez followed with a single to center and Tony Abreu reached on his second hit of the night and of his big league career. Lou Piniella went to his bullpen for Will Ohman. With Howry sitting on the bench motionless, Ohman gave up a pinch-hit single to Olmedo Saenz. Piniella went to the pen again, this time for future closer Angel Guzman.

Guzman’s first offering was a wild pitch (Michael Barrett misplayed the ball and it could have been ruled a passed ball) that scored Gonzalez from 3rd to cut the Cubs’ lead to one. Guzman eventually walked pinch hitter Andy LaRoche on 4 pitches to reload the bases. Rafael Furcal singled to left to tie the game (the infield was in) and Juan Pierre hit a sacrifice fly to center to drive in Brady Clark (Clark was pinch running for Saenz) from 3rd with the winning run. Piniella’s bullpen failed to do their job once again….

The 7th inning on Friday night was very impressive. After a lackluster performance in San Diego, the Cubs’ offense appeared flat and made another good pitcher look like a Cy Young candidate. Derek Lowe had a fine outing but until the Cubs offense starts working the count and taking what they are given, they will continue to struggle. And that is what makes the loss on Friday even more frustrating, for one inning the offense looked like the one that was on paper when the season started.

The Cubs have had big innings this season, but not like the 7th inning on Friday. They were very patient at the plate, put the ball in play and did not allow a base running mistake by Derrek Lee derail the rally.

Jacque Jones led off the 7th with a single to right and stole 2nd with 1-out and Matt Murton at the plate pinch-hitting for Carlos Marmol. Yhency Brazoban walked Murton and Alfonso Soriano followed with a double to left that one hopped the wall. Jones and Murton scored and Soriano advanced to 3rd on the throw to the plate. Mark DeRosa double to right center, Soriano scored. Derrek Lee followed with a double that scored DeRosa to tie the game off of Jonathan Broxton….the third straight double in the inning. Lee, however, was picked off 2nd but Aramis Ramirez singled to right to keep the inning alive. Cliff Floyd singled to right center and a very good sliding play by Andre Ethier kept the ball from rolling to wall. Barrett came through and singled to right to give the Cubs the lead. Jones followed with his second hit of the inning, a double to left to score Floyd. Cesar Izturis hit a routine grounder to Abreu at 3rd but his throw to 1st was low and Nomar could not dig it out of the dirt….Barrett scored to make the score 8-5. The Cubs sent 12 to the plate in the inning, scored 7 runs, took Lilly off the hook and hit the ball very well against a good bullpen.

While Derek Lowe kept the Cubs off the board (1 run on 4 hits with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts in 6 innings), Ted Lilly could not find the strike zone and allowed Juan Pierre, Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent to end his night after retiring one out in the 5th. Lilly allowed 5 runs on 6 hits in 4 1/3 innings and for the first time this season he walked (4) more than he struck out (2). And again, the 3 of the 5 runs Lilly allowed all came after the first two outs of the inning were made….Lilly had a bad outing, likely because he did not pitch on regular rest.

The Cubs lost another 1-run game and until Lou Piniella discovers a way to have all of his players on the same page on a daily basis, they will continue to drop close ballgames which separate playoff teams from those that watch the postseason from the stands.

Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to face the Dodgers and Mark Hendrickson on Saturday afternoon. Hopefully Lou will have a new game plan by then.

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