Game One Hundred Forty-Two – Cubs 5 Pirates 10
WP – Matt Morris (9-9) LP – Steve Trachsel (6-10) Save – None
For the first time in 23 days the Cubs are not in either sole position or tied for first place in the Central Division. Lou Piniella’s crew jumped out to an early lead in the 2nd inning but the Pirates scored 6 in the home half and made the Cubs play from behind all afternoon in the rain. Steve Trachsel gave up 6 runs on 6 hits and left the game after 2 innings. The big hit in the inning was a bases loaded triple by Freddy Sanchez that was nearly an inside the park grand slam. Jacque Jones misplayed the fly ball, tried to adjust but could not make a diving catch. Ryan Theriot threw out Sanchez at the plate to end the inning. Lou Piniella used 8 different pitchers on the day, the Pirates pounded out 13 hits and drew 7 walks. Scott Eyre pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the 6th but Kerry Wood gave up 3 runs in the 8th inning that put the game out of reach.
Jason Kendall drove in the first 2 runs of the game with a 2-out single in the 2nd inning and the offense kept chipping away at an early 6-2 deficit. Alfonso Soriano hit a 2-run home run in the 5th, his 24th of the year and Geovany Soto hit his 1st career big league home run in the 7th that cut the Pirates lead to 7-5. The Cubs totaled 9 hits on the afternoon but walked only twice.
The biggest week of the season got off to a bad start. The Cubs lost a weekend series to the last place Pirates and dropped back to just 2 games above .500. Lou Piniella’s crew is 4-5 in September and have won 2 of their last 7. If the Cubs do not win the central they have no one to blame but themselves. They finished their season series at Pittsburgh with a 4-5 record and against the pesky Pirates they are just 5-7 for the year. Are the Cubs not taking the Pirates seriously? Do they think they will just roll over and give them the game? Or, are the Pirates that good of a team that under performs against the rest of the league?
Lou Piniella and his coaching staff have to figure out a way to wake this team up. To say they are going through the motions right now would be an understatement. While the players have to perform, and they have not, it is the coaches’ responsibility to ensure the team is ready to compete on a daily basis. Lou Piniella has done a very good job all season at getting the most out of his team, now he needs to finish the season strong as well. The regular season ends three weeks from today and the clock is ticking….
Steve Trachsel was not good but if Jacque Jones would have caught the ball hit by Freddy Sanchez the Cubs would have been down just 3-2…. or if Trachsel had not allowed the pitcher to beat him again. Matt Morris kept the 2nd inning alive with a 2-out single to left. Both of those plays changed the entire game. Pitching and defense wins games, right?
Trachsel retired the Pirates in order in the 1st inning but barely made it through the 2nd. Adam LaRoche doubled off the wall in right to lead off the 2nd inning. Jose Bautista grounded out to 2nd, LaRoche advanced to 3rd. Steve Pearce singled to center to score LaRoche with the Pirates first run. Ronny Paulino flied out to left but Jack Wilson doubled to right center to tie the game. Matt Morris singled to left, Wilson was held at 3rd….Soriano got to the ball quickly. Nyjer Morgan singled to center to score Wilson with the go ahead run. Trachsel threw a wild pitch with Nate McLouth at the plate and then walked him to load the bases.
Freddy Sanchez stepped in and hit what appeared to be an inning ending fly to center. But Jacque Jones broke the wrong way, dove to try to catch the ball. Jones missed, it rolled all the way to the wall. Ryan Theriot made a good relay throw to Jason Kendall to keep Sanchez from an inside the park grand slam.
The Pirates added a run in the 4th off of Carmen Pignatiello. Kevin Hart retired 3 of the 4 batters he faced in the 3rd but gave up a leadoff single to Jack Wilson in the 4th. Morris sacrificed him to 2nd and Piniella brought in Pignatiello to face Morgan and McLouth, both lefties. Morgan singled to center on a 0-2 to score Wilson but was thrown out trying to steal 2nd with McLouth at the plate. Morgan actually slid past the bag and Theriot tagged him out.
The bullpen kept the Pirates off the board until the 8th. It was not pretty but effective. Sean Marshall gave up 2 hits in 1 1/3 innings. Marshall struggled to start the 6th, recorded just 1 out and left with runners on 1st and 3rd. Michael Wuertz came in and walked the only batter he faced. With the bases loaded Scott Eyre struck out Morgan and got McLouth to fly out to center to end the inning.
Kerry Wood started the 8th. He walked 2 of the first 3 batters he faced, gave up a single to the other and a pinch hit double to Jose Castillo that scored 2. Will Ohman replaced Wood and was not much better. The second out was recorded on a run down….3-5-2-6-3, after a ground out to Derrek Lee by Morgan. But Ohman issued another 2 out walk to load the bases and gave up a ground out to Freddy Sanchez that drove in the last run of the game.
While the entire pitching staff is inconsistent right now, the one pitcher that is very consistent right now is Will Ohman. He cannot throw strikes and must be put in the same place Scott Eyre was at the beginning of the year.
Matt Morris beat the Cubs for the first time since June 9, 2004 and hopefully the next time the Cubs play a team with a record under .500 they will not take them too lightly.
The Cubs have to wake up, relax, start playing the game and have fun….before it is too late.
The Cubs return to Chicago for one game on Monday against the Cardinals. Ted Lilly is scheduled to face Joel Pineiro in the makeup game from August 19th.