Game Fifty-Three – Cubs 3 Braves 5
WP – Tyler Yates (2-0, BS 1) LP – Will Ohman (0-3) Save – Bob Wickman (9)
Lou Piniella gave the Faithful what they have been looking for….some emotion but not even Piniella’s ejection in the 8th could spark his team to victory. The Cubs are flat and continued their downward spiral against the Braves, dropping their 6th in a row….the longest current streak in baseball. Once again the Cubs out hit their opponent but were thrown out twice at 3rd base, including the play Piniella was ejected on. Alfonso Soriano hit his first homerun since May 11th but the Cubs were not able to score after loading the bases with 1-out in the 4th inning, on the day they were 0-5 with runners in scoring position.
Rich Hill pitched very well but a leadoff walk and his error in the 4th led to a 3-run inning for the Braves and he left after the 7th with the game tied. Will Ohman gave up the second leadoff walk on the day in the 8th inning that came around to score the eventual winning run and Michael Wuertz served up a homerun in the 9th to Andruw Jones that gave the Braves pen more than they would need. It was “Vintage Lou” in the 8th inning but unfortunately after his tirade, the “fans” in attendance littered the outfield and caused a 7-minute delay….whatever fire Piniella may have lit in the dugout was extinguished by the classless act. After battling back to tie the game in the 7th, the Braves took the lead in the top of the 8th. Rafael Soriano took the mound to start the bottom of the inning and Angel Pagan greeted him with a double into the right field corner. Pagan held at 2nd (Quade was waiving him to 3rd and Pagan did not look at his coach) with the arm of Jeff Francoeur in right. With Jacque Jones at bat, Soriano uncorked a wild pitch that bounced in front of the plate but was blocked by Jarrod Saltalmacchia and did not roll as far as Pagan had thought. Saltalmacchia fired to 3rd and a quick tag by Yunel Escobar kept Pagan from reaching the bag. Pagan and Mike Quade thought he was safe and started arguing with Mark Wegner. Piniella ran out of the dugout, said a few words, took his cap off, threw it to the ground and was ejected by Wegner. The two were nose to nose, while Piniella repeatedly kicked what dirt he could find before eventually taking his frustration out on his cap….he kicked it several times. Bruce Froemming stepped in between and actually touched Piniella while trying to calm the situation. Piniella could be suspended, after the game Froemming claimed Piniella kicked Mark Wegner.
After the delay, Jones was ahead 2-0 in the count but eventually looked at strike three for the second time on the afternoon when his team needed him to do his job. The Cubs went quietly in the 9th despite a 1-out single by Alfonso Soriano. Ryan Theriot (1-5 with a run) struck out and Derrek Lee (0-4 with a walk) grounded out to Escobar to end the game. The Cubs left 9 on base and outplayed the Braves in several facets of the game but again they could not put together a complete team effort….the Cubs are 3-15 against the Braves since 2005.
Rich Hill faced the minimum through the first 3 innings of the game before giving up a leadoff walk to Martin Prado (the Cubs pitching staff walked two on the afternoon, both leadoff walks and both scored). Yunel Escobar attempted to sacrifice Prado to 2nd but Hill fielded the ball and threw to 2nd attempting to get the lead runner. The throw from Hill was low and hit the sliding Prado in the face….runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs and the Cubs once solid defense continued its recent struggles, the 5th game in a row with at least one error.
Edgar Renteria doubled to left on a 2-2 count to score Prado and Andruw Jones grounded out to Derrek Lee to score Escobar, Renteria advanced to 3rd on the play….talking about a productive out. With the infield in, Hill struck out Francoeur swinging but Matt Diaz hit a very good pitch for a double into left center….Hill kept the ball down but Diaz went down and pulled it into the gap. Saltalmacchia popped out to Lee to end the inning but the Braves scored 3 times on 2 hits, a walk and an error.
Hill scattered two more hits before turning the ball over to the bullpen in the 8th and finished his day giving up 3 runs, 1 earned, on 4 hits, 1 walk and 6 strikeouts on 97 pitches, 66 for strikes.
Will Ohman took the mound in the 8th and after starting 0-2 to Scott Thorman, he ended up walking him to start the inning. Chris Woodward sacrificed him to 2nd and Prado popped out to Derrek Lee in foul ground in the visitors’ bullpen. Yunel Escobar, who made his Major League debut, doubled to left with 2 outs to score the go ahead run….his first career RBI. Ohman was lifted for Bob Howry who retired Renteria to end the inning. Michael Wuertz gave up a home run to Andruw Jones on his first pitch before striking out the side in the 9th.
The Cubs’ offense continued their slump with runners in scoring position. In the 2nd, Aramis Ramirez lead off the inning with a single to center and Jacque Jones walked 2 outs later but Koyie Hill could not come through and grounded out to short to end the inning. In the 4th, Ramirez singled to center with 1-out and Mark DeRosa followed with a single to right. Angel Pagan walked on 4 pitches to load the bases….with 1-out. Jacque Jones swung at the first 2 pitches of his at bat that were well out of the strike zone (question, why was Jones swinging at all until James threw a strike, he had just given up back-to-back singles before walking Pagan on 4 pitches?) Jones ended up looking at strike 3 and on a 2-2 count, Koyie Hill flied out to left to end the inning.
Alfonso Soriano hit a home run with 1-out in the 5th….the blast was estimated at 420′ and went well on to Waveland Avenue for his 5th on the year. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez walked but DeRosa struck out on the third pitch of his at bat. Koyie Hill recorded his first hit as a Cub with 2 outs in the 6th and scored on a double to right center by Rich Hill. Hill was thrown out at 3rd while trying to stretch a double into a triple….it was a bad decision by Hill, he ignored the stop sign by Mike Quade and the “Adventures in Baserunning” continued for this team.
In the 7th, Ryan Theriot singled to right with 1-out and advanced to 2nd on a wild throw from Tyler Yates on a pickoff attempt at 1st. Ramirez followed with a shot that Martin Prado was unable to handle at 2nd and Theriot scored to tie the game.
With Cliff Floyd and Matt Murton both nursing injuries on Saturday, Lou Piniella had very little options of his bench, especially against the left-hander James on the mound to start the game.
The Cubs are a game short of being swept at home by both the Marlins and Braves and will turn to Sean Marshall to end the losing streak against Lance Cormier.