Clogging the Bases

Game One Hundred Forty-Four – Cubs 4 Astros 5, 11 innings
WP – Brad Lidge (4-2) LP – Ryan Dempster (2-6) Save – None

A day after Lou Piniella’s crew put a 12 spot on the board against the defending World Champions, the Cubs were unable to score a single run after Mark DeRosa’s 3-run home run in the 3rd. The biggest Cub Killer of them all, Carlos Lee, robbed Ryan Theriot of an extra base hit with two out and two on in the 8th. The Cubs walked 10 times on the night to go along with 10 hits, but could not take advantage. The Cubs left 15 on base, including runners in scoring position in the 8th, 9th and 10th innings. The Cubs loaded the bases with 2-outs in the 11th against Brad Lidge but Jacque Jones flied out to center to end the inning.

Jason Marquis was given a 4-1 lead in the 3rd inning and was very good early on. Marquis retired the Astros in order in the 4th on just 6 pitches. A 2-run triple by Hunter Pence in the 5th and a RBI double by Mark Loretta in the 6th tied the game after a leadoff single by Carlos Lee. Marquis left without recording an out in the 6th. He gave up 4 runs, 3 earned, on 8 hits in 5+ innings. Carlos Marmol threw two dominating innings. He struck out 4 of the 7 batters he faced, 2 in each inning. Bobby Howry threw 2 innings of perfect relief with 4 strikeouts. The bullpen retired 15 in a row until Ryan Dempster walked Mark Loretta with 1 out in the 11th, the only walk given up on the night by Cubs pitching. Luke Scott tripled in pinch runner, Eric Bruntlett with the winning run.

The Cubs lost the game on Tuesday night, they were not beaten by the Astros but are winless in 4 games at Minute Maid this season. With the loss the Cubs dropped a game back of the Brewers in the Central and are only 2 games above .500….again.

It is not too often a Major League Baseball team walks 10 times in a single game and ends up losing the game. The Cubs totaled 21 baserunners on the night, Alfonso Soriano was hit by Brandon Backe in the 2nd inning, but came away with only 4 runs. While the Astros defense made a couple of good plays when it mattered most, the Cubs simply could not put the ball in play with runners on base. The Cubs aggressiveness at the plate cost them a very important game. The win-one-lose-one mentality this team has right now could end up costing them a shot to play ball in October. They showed on Monday afternoon how they are capable of playing, now it is up to Lou Piniella to get the most out of his team on a daily basis.

The most concerning part of this loss, beside the fact it was unnecessary, was that Piniella had to use Carlos Marmol and Bobby Howry for two innings each. The Cubs’ offense just put a big strain on the bullpen with Rich Hill and Steve Trachsel scheduled to pitch the final two games of this series. Ryan Dempster has to throw strikes, but this game should have been decided well before he took the mound.

Brandon Backe made his second start of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last September. Backe had control problems and the Cubs showed a lot of patience at the plate. Ryan Theriot was hitless on the night (10-for-60 in his last 15 games) but walked 2 times. Theriot walked on 4 pitches in the 1st inning and Cliff Floyd followed with a 2-out single to center. Aramis Ramirez flied out to right to end the inning.

Jacque Jones was 3-for-6 on the night and scored the first run of the game in the 2nd inning. Jason Kendall doubled to left to score Jones from 1st. Soriano was hit in the hand by Backe and Theriot walked to load the bases. But Derrek Lee swung at a 2-0 pitch from Backe and flied out to right. The Cubs left 3 in scoring position in the first 2 innings and a total of 5 on base….that inning set the tone for the entire game.

Cliff Floyd walked to lead off the 3rd and advanced to 2nd on a single off the scoreboard in left by Aramis Ramirez. Mark DeRosa followed with his 9th home run of the year, his first since August 20th. Backe retired the next three Cubs he faced to end the inning.

Alfonso Soriano led off the 4th with a single off the wall in left but Ryan Theriot grounded into a 6-3 double play. Derrek Lee walked and Floyd popped out to right. The Cubs lack of fundamentals came back in the 6th. Kendall led off with a walk but Jason Marquis could not sacrifice him to 2nd. Soriano flied out and Theriot struck out to end the inning….Kendall never moved.

Lou Piniella tried three innings a row to plate the go ahead run. The Cubs put the leadoff runner on in the 8th, 9th and 10th innings and all three times Piniella had the next hitter sacrifice the runner into scoring position. All three times the sacrifice was successful (Jason Kendall twice) but Soriano popped out, infield fly rule, on the first pitch he saw in the 8th and Theriot was robbed by Carlos Lee. In the 9th after a Ramirez walk put two on, Mark DeRosa hit into his 17th double play of the year. In the 10th, Brad Lidge struck out Mike Fontenot and Soriano swinging to end the inning.

Craig Biggio hit the 666th double of his Hall of Fame career on Tuesday night in the 2nd inning. Biggio moved ahead of George Brett for 5th on the All-Time list.

Wednesday is a new day…..

Rich Hill was scheduled to face fellow lefty, Troy Patton on Wednesday night but the Astros announced on Tuesday night that Matt Albers will get the start instead.

Quote of the Day

"Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points." – Knute Rockne