An Up Hill Battle

Game Ninety-Six – Cubs 2 Diamondbacks 3
WP – Juan Cruz (4-1) LP – Bobby Howry (5-5) Save – Jose Valverde (29)

The Cubs offense could not string together any hits against rookie Micah Owings and former Cub Juan Cruz threw 3 innings of nearly perfect relief to earn the win. Cruz walked just 1 batter and did not surrender a single hit; he improved to 3-0 lifetime against the Cubs. Lou Piniella’s offense managed only 4 hits and lost their first 1-run game since June 21st against the Texas Rangers.

Rich Hill did not have his best stuff and his defense let him down as well. The Cubs committed 2 errors with the first on the day by Aramis Ramirez that lead to an unearned run in the 1st inning. Hill pitched from behind in the count most of the afternoon but was able to pitch his way out of trouble on several occasions. A solo home run in the 8th inning by Stephen Drew off of Bobby Howry was the difference in the game. The loss on Saturday was the first to a right-handed starter in their last 12 games. With the loss, the Cubs record stands at 29-14 since June 3rd.

The Cubs offense managed just 3 base runners after Angel Pagan’s triple in the 4th, all walks and simply could not find a rhythm. The first hit for the Cubs came in the 3rd inning by Rich Hill and they managed just two hits in the 4th. Rich Hill gave Lou Piniella’s offense ample time to put runs on the board. Micah Owings buzzed Aramis Ramirez in the 1st inning on the first pitch of his at bat with one high and tight. Ramirez took exception to the pitch and took a couple of steps toward the mound. Home plate umpire Ted Barrett, D’backs catcher Chris Snyder and Jacque Jones restored peace and Ramirez struck out to for the second out of the inning. Ramirez, who had been on fire, cooled off and was 0-4 on the day….he left 6 on base and struck out two times.

Rich Hill allowed only 1 earned run in 6 innings of work, 6 hits, 4 walks and 6 strikeouts. Chris Young reached 2nd to start the game on an error by Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez misjudged the ball and it went down the left field line and into the bullpen. Hill ignored Young at 2nd, he stole 3rd and scored on a ground out to 2nd by Orlando Hudson….a run without a benefit of a hit was not the way Hill wanted to start his outing. Hill walked Eric Byrnes but Conor Jackson grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning….it was a nice play by Theriot and Fontenot to get out of the inning.

Hill quickly retired the first two batters in the 2nd but gave up a 2-out single by Stephen Drew to center. Chris Snyder followed with a bloop single to center but Hill struck out Owings to end the inning. In the 3rd, Orlando Hudson singled to right with 1-out and advanced to 3rd on a single by Byrnes to left and an error by Alfonso Soriano. Soriano misplayed the in between hop and it rolled past him. Hill walked Jackson to load the bases but Mark Reynolds swung at the first pitch and popped out to Mike Fontenot. Scott Hairston (Jerry’s brother) flied out to end the inning. Hill retired the D’backs in order in the 4th but gave up the tying run in the 5th.

Hill walked Chris Young to lead off the 5th. Orlando Hudson then singled to right center and Hill appeared get a ground ball double play off the bat of Eric Byrnes. He hit a grounder to short, Young scored easily from 3rd but Fontenot dropped the ball during the exchange and could not make the throw to 1st. Jackson singled to put runners on 1st and 3rd but for some reason Reynolds tried to bunt and popped out to Hill for the second out and Hairston grounded out to 3rd to end the inning.

Rich Hill did his job, he fought through an outing he clearly did not have his A-game. Hill did strikeout the last two batters he faced….DaVanon and Young to end the 6th but he seemed to get rattled early and often and did not appear confident on the mound throughout the afternoon.

Michael Wuertz gave up a lead off single to Orlando Hudson in the 7th but settled down and struck out the side….all swinging. Bobby Howry pitched the 8th and the D’backs got solid contact on Howry. After striking out Augie Ojeda, Stephen Drew hit a no doubter into the bleachers in right, even with the wind blowing in…..the home run was Drew’s 9th of his career, 3 have come at Wrigley Field. Chris Snyder followed with a ringing double off the ivy in left but was stranded at 2nd when Young grounded out to 3rd.

Ryan Dempster made his first appearance since June 22nd and gave up a 2-out bloop single to center by Conor Jackson but struck out Eric Byrnes and threw the ball very well.

The Cubs offense walked more times, 6, than they hit safely, 4, on the afternoon. Alfonso Soriano walked to lead off the game but was erased on a ground out by Ryan Theriot. Soriano appeared to deflect the throw by Drew and the D’backs were not able to turn the double play. Mike Fontenot walked to put runners on 1st and 2nd for Aramis Ramirez but he struck out and Jacque Jones popped out to center to end the inning.

The Cubs were retired in order in the 2nd. Rich Hill led off the 3rd with the first Cub hit of the day….a single to center after a very good at bat on a 3-2 pitch. Soriano struck out but Theriot singled to left. Fontenot worked the count to 3-2 but with Hill at 2nd, Piniella could not start the runners and Fontenot grounded into a fielder’s choice that forced Theriot at 2nd. Ramirez worked the count, as well, to 3-2 but grounded out to Owings to end the inning….the ball was hit pretty hard up the middle but Owings made a nice play to get the out.

The Cubs only runs came in the 4th inning. Jacque Jones doubled to lead off the inning. Mark DeRosa walked and Angel Pagan hit his 2nd triple of the year to right. Jones and DeRosa scored and Pagan slid into 3rd with no outs. With the infield in, Koyie Hill hit what appeared to be a bloop single to shallow right center but Orlando Hudson made a nice over the back catch for the first out and Pagan had to hold at 3rd (very questionable baserunning). Rich Hill struck out on a 3-2 pitch and Soriano flied out to right to end the inning….the difference in the ballgame.

Saturday’s loss was one that teams lose during a season, plain and simple. They just have to bounce back and take the rubber game on Sunday and end the homestand on a winning note and head into the off day on Monday back to 7 games above .500.

Sean Marshall is scheduled to pitch the series and homestand finale on Sunday against Yusmeiro Petit. The Cubs do not have much experience with Petit….they have faced the former Marlin just once for only an inning.

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