Z First Time for Everything

Game One Hundred Thirteen – Cubs 2 Astros 8
WP – Roy Oswalt (12-6) LP – Carlos Zambrano (14-8) Save – None

The Cubs were swept in a 3-game series in Houston for the first time since September of 1999 and the first time at Minute Maid Park. For the third game in a row the Cubs offense had plenty of opportunities to score runs. They out hit the Astros 12-to-11 but were 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position with only 1 RBI. For the series they finished a shocking 2-for-34 with runners in scoring position, with 1 RBI and a 3-game total of 5 runs scored. Aramis Ramirez was scratched from the lineup right before game time with right wrist soreness, a report after the game stated Ramirez will return to Chicago on Thursday to have his wrist examined and could be out of the line up for a couple of days. Ramirez presence, once again, was missed in the middle of the lineup. Derrek Lee walked in consecutive at bats in the 1st and 3rd innings, but both innings were ended by Cliff Floyd with multiple runners on base. The Cubs left at least two base runners on in 5 different innings and a total of 13 on the night.

Carlos Zambrano posted his first loss of the second half and tied a season-high with 7 earned runs allowed. Zambrano struck out Luke Scott in the 2nd inning for his 1000th career strikeout and finished with 6 on the night to go along with 3 walks and each of his free passes came around to score. The Astros homered twice against Zambrano, three times on the night and 7 of their 11 hits went for extra bases. The Cubs dropped their 4th in a row and have now lost 6 of their last 7 games.

The Cubs are flat and pressing. This once very confident team reverted back to their early season form in the series against the Astros….and now it is up to their skipper to turn it around.

Carlos Zambrano appeared to be lights out once again early on. He sat down the Astros in order in 1st inning on 9 pitches. Carlos Lee doubled to right to lead off the 2nd but Zambrano struck out Luke Scott for number 1000 of his career and Jason Lane. Eric Bruntlett reached on an infield single and Brad Ausmus looked at strike three to end the inning….3 of Zambrano’s 6 strikeouts came in the 2nd inning.

Zambrano struggled to get through the 3rd inning and threw 35 pitches. He gave up a 1-out solo home run to Craig Biggio, the first earned run the Astros had scored off of Zambrano in 24 innings, it was also the second game in a row that Biggio had the game winning RBI. Zambrano did not allow it to affect him and he retired Mike Lamb for the second out. He walked Lance Berkman and gave up a 2-out single to Carlos Lee. Luke Scott followed with a bases clearing triple over Cliff Floyd’s head in right for the final two runs of the inning.

Zambrano retired Bruntlett and Ausmus on 5 pitches to start the 4th but Roy Oswalt singled after working the count to 3-2. Biggio reached on a error by Mike Fontenot and Mike Lamb flied out on the first pitch from Zambrano to end the inning.

Lance Berkman led off the 5th with his 20th home run of the season to centerfield and the Astros put the game away in the 6th.

Zambrano walked Eric Bruntlett to start the 6th. Ausmus sacrificed him to 2nd and Zambrano walked pinch hitter, Orlando Palmeiro. With runners on 1st and 2nd, Biggio grounded out to short. Ryan Theriot made a good play on the ball but the only option was Biggio at 1st, he threw him out with help from a good scoop by Derrek Lee. Mike Lamb doubled to left with 2 outs to score both Bruntlett and Palmeiro. Piniella brought in Scott Eyre to turn Lance Berkman around. Eyre walked Berkman and Lee reached on an infield hit to load the bases. Lee actually hit a grounder to 1st but Scott Eyre did not break for the bag and Derrek Lee had no one to throw the ball to….Eyre walked Luke Scott with the bases loaded to force in a run. Piniella made the slow walk again and brought in Michael Wuertz.

Wuertz retired Jason Lane on 1 pitch to end the 6th but gave up a solo home run to Brad Ausmus in the 7th, his 3rd of the year.

The offense simply could not come through with runners on base. Mark DeRosa hit in the 5th hole behind Cliff Floyd and led off 3 different innings. The Cubs had the lead off runner on base in 5 of the 9 innings and plated only one of those runners.

Ryan Theriot was 3-for-5 on the night with a run scored and a RBI. Jacque Jones reached base 3 times with a single, a double and a walk. Mark DeRosa was 2-for-5 with a double and Matt Murton was 2-for-4. The only starter that did not reach base with a hit was Derrek Lee and the only one in the starting nine that did not reach either with a hit or a walk was Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano and Floyd left a combined 9 runners on base.

The Cubs broke up the shutout in the 7th. Theriot led off with a single, Jones followed with a double to right and Derrek Lee grounded out to 2nd to score Theriot. Cliff Floyd walked on 4 pitches but DeRosa flied out and Fontenot grounded out to 1st.

Matt Murton led off the 8th with an infield single. Koyie Hill flied out and Felix Pie grounded out to Lance Berkman and Murton was forced at 2nd base. Pie took 2nd and scored on a single to center by Theriot. With Jones at the plate, Theriot took 2nd (neither Pie nor Theriot were given stolen bases, the were scored as defensive indifference) and advanced to 3rd on a single to center. Derrek Lee grounded out to short to end the inning.

In 162-game schedule teams have many peaks and valleys….well it is very to see where the Cubs are at after game number 113.

The Cubs open a 4-game series on Thursday night in Colorado. Ted Lilly will attempt to cool off the red-hot Rockies and the Cubs will face hard throwing right-hander, Ubaldo Jimenez.

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon