Inventing More Ways to Lose

Game Forty-Eight – Cubs 1 Dodgers 2 – 11 innings
WP – Chad Billingsley (3-0) LP – Angel Guzman (0-1) Save – None

The Cubs had several opportunities early in the ballgame to put runs on the board but could not cash them in. Rich Hill and Randy Wolf both threw six shutout innings and did not figure in the outcome. After the Cubs took the lead in the top of the 8th, Scott Eyre surrendered the game tying home run in the bottom of the inning to the only batter he faced, pinch hitter Andre Ethier, the 4th and last hit of the game given up by Cubs’ pitching,

The Dodgers scored the winning run in the 11th without having to put the ball in play. Angel Guzman came on in the 9th and pitched two perfect innings in relief before he took the mound in the 11th. Ramon Martinez and Wilson Betemit walked to start the inning and Martinez advanced to 3rd after Michael Barrett tried to pick him off of 2nd base. Lou Piniella intentionally walked Rafael Furcal to load the bases and Carlos Marmol hit Juan Pierre to end the game.

Rich Hill turned out his best start in well over a month. He threw 6 shutout innings and gave up just 3 hits while striking out 3 and walking 2 on 66 pitches. Hill was lifted in the 7th for Daryle Ward in an attempt to drive in Angel Pagan from 3rd with the go ahead run. Hill developed a new pick-off move that paid big dividends early in the game. Rafael Furcal hit a bloop single to center on Hill’s first pitch of the game. With Juan Pierre at the plate and a 3-2 count, Hill’s new move to 1st was put to the test and he picked off Furcal who was leaning toward 2nd base.

After Hill picked off Furcal, he demonstrated the same confidence he had early in the year. All 3 hits he gave up were singles and he was aided by several fine defensive plays behind him as well as an unassisted double play by Derrek Lee. The Dodgers reached 2nd base only once with Hill on the mound.

Rich Hill faced the minimum through the first three innings due in large part to the pickoff of Furcal and the double play by Lee. After the inning ending double play in the 2nd, Hill sat down the next 10 Dodgers he faced before a 2-out single to left in the 5th by Luis Gonzalez. Andy LaRoche walked but Cesar Izturis threw out Brady Clark on a check swing dribbler to short to end the inning….it was a barehanded pickup and a fine play by Izturis. Hill pitched around a 1-out single to Furcal in the 6th as Juan Pierre and Russell Martin hit deep flies to right to end the inning, the first well hit balls off of Hill on the afternoon.

Michael Wuertz retired the Dodgers in the 7th on 12 pitches and took the mound to start the 8th but when Andre Ethier was announced, Lou Piniella decided to call on Scott Eyre. Eyre’s inability to retire left handed batters this season is well-documented but Piniella decided to use him anyway for the first time since he pitched against the White Sox last Sunday. With lefties hitting an unheard of .417 against him, Eyre threw two quick strikes to Ethier before he left a breaking ball over the heart of the plate that Ethier deposited into the right field stands. Piniella went to his pen again, this time for Bobby Howry.

Howry threw strikes with better location than his last outing on Friday and retired the three batters he faced on 13 pitches. Angel Guzman took the hill in the 9th was very efficient, threw strikes and retired the first six hitters he faced. But in the 11th Guzman could not find the strike zone.

Former Cub, Ramon Martinez pinch hit for Chad Billingsley to lead off the inning and Guzman quickly got ahead in the count 0-2 before eventually walking him to start the inning….granted Dana DeMuth’s strike zone had become incredibly tight but a future closer must make those pitches. Guzman threw Wilson Betemit a first pitch strike but concentrated too much on Martinez at 1st. He threw over 4 times in the at bat and when he did throw to the plate he missed badly. After walking Betemit, Rafael Furcal attempted a sacrifice bunt. After the first pitch, Martinez slipped between 2nd and 3rd and Michael Barrett decided to throw behind the runner in an attempt to pick him off of 2nd. Martinez took off for 3rd instead and slid in safe ahead of the throw from Izturis….that decision changed the entire inning. Piniella decided to bring in Carlos Marmol to face Furcal.

Piniella intentionally walked Furcal and had Marmol throw the last 3 balls of the at bat. With the bases loaded, Juan Pierre stepped in and with the count 2-2, Marmol’s pitch bounced and hit Pierre on his back leg to drive in the winning run, it was Pierre’s second game winning RBI of the series.

Randy Wolf has been one of the hottest pitchers in baseball over the past month and despite not having his best stuff he kept the Cubs from scoring any runs while he was on the mound. He left after 6 innings, not because of poor performance but because of a high pitch count….101.

Michael Barrett led off the 2nd inning with a walk and advanced to 2nd on Furcal’s 7th error of the season on a grounder by Matt Murton. With 2 outs and Izturis at the plate, Barrett tried to steal 3rd and was thrown out….Izturis had a 3-0 count at the time and the out had an effect on the 3rd inning. Izturis flied out to right on Wolf’s first pitch in the 3rd and Rich Hill struck out swinging but Soriano singled to left with 2-outs. Ryan Theriot grounded back to Wolf who went to 2nd for the force out to end the inning….

Matt Murton led off the 5th with a double to right center and advanced to 3rd on a great bunt by Angel Pagan, who was safe at 1st. With Izturis at the plate, Wolf uncorked a wild pitch and the Cubs had runners at 2nd and 3rd with no outs. Izturis worked the count to 3-1 before swinging at ball 4 and grounding out to LaRoche at 3rd. Rich Hill struck out and after a 10-pitch at bat, Soriano worked a free pass to load the bases. Ryan Theriot grounded out to 1st to end the inning.

Alfonso Soriano led off the 8th with a single to left and on a hit and run advanced to 3rd on a single to right center by Theriot. Derrek Lee singled to center to drive in the only run of the day for the Cubs. Barrett attempted to sacrifice but bunted the ball to hard and Rudy Seanez was able to throw out Theriot at 3rd. DeRosa flied out to center, Lee advanced to 3rd and Murton worked a walk to load the bases. With Angel Pagan due up, Grady Little went to his pen for southpaw Joe Beimel and Piniella went to his bench for Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez swung at the first offering from Beimel and drove it to the warning track in right to end the inning.

After the 8th inning, the Cubs managed just one base runner, a walk to Cesar Izturis to lead off the 9th.

The Cubs dropped to 2-12 overall and 0-6 on the road in 1-run games. The loss also dropped the bullpen’s record to 4-13.

While the Cubs bullpen continues its struggles with throwing strikes, at least Rich Hill was able to get back on track….and the rest of the central, with the exception of the Pirates, all lost on Sunday.

The Cubs open a 6-game homestand on Monday against the Florida Marlins. Sean Marshall will take the mound on Memorial Day against Byung-Hyun Kim.

Quote of the Day

"There are places I remember. All my life though some have changed. Some forever not for better. Some have gone and some remain. All these places have their moments ... " John Lennon/Paul McCartney