Opportunity After Opportunity

Game Twenty-Three – Cubs 3 Nationals 5
WP – Jon Rauch (2-0) LP – Bobby Howry (0-2) Save – None

For the first time in almost two weeks the Cubs lost back-to-back games after a lackluster performance on Friday night. Lou Piniella’s crew had plenty of chances to put runs on the board but left the bases loaded in the 8th and left a total of 10 on in 9 innings. A ground rule double by Kosuke Fukudome erased a run in the 5th inning and the Cubs third run of the game came after a bases loaded walk to Matt Murton in the 8th.

With the game tied at 3 in the bottom of the 9th, Bobby Howry took the mound and gave up a leadoff single to Austin Kearns. Howry struck out Willie Harris for the first out. On a 0-2 pitch, Wil Nieves hit his first career home run to end the game. Nieves took an outside pitch over the right field wall and the Nationals celebrated the walk off win as the Cubs looked stunned at the final outcome.

Ryan Dempster was incredibly wild at the start of the game. He appeared rushed and could not find a rhythm in the first 3 innings. Dempster settled down and turned in a strong 7-inning outing and allowed 3 runs, 2 earned, on 4 hits with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts.

Reed Johnson made an incredible catch in left center to end the bottom of the 5th. Johnson robbed Felipe Lopez of an extra base hit as he dove diagonally into the base of the wall. Ron Santo described Johnson’s catch as one of the best plays he’d ever seen.

When a team is playing on the road, it does not matter who the opponent is, they must take advantage of as many scoring opportunities as possible, For the second day in a row, the Cubs put runners on base but could not come up with a hit when they needed it,

The Cubs had chance in the top of the 1st after a 2-out double by Derrek Lee. Aramis Ramirez walked but Kosuke Fukudome flied out to left to end the inning. After Dempster’s control problems put the Cubs in a 2-0 hole in the bottom inning, the Cubs kept trying to mount another comeback.

Reed Johnson started the 3rd by getting hit by a pitch from Odalis Perez. Ryan Theriot followed with a double to the corner in left. Johnson scored from 1st to cut the Nationals lead to 2-1. With Derrek Lee at the plate, Theriot attempted to steal 3rd. He was called out but replays showed he got his hand in….regardless of the outcome, Theriot should not have attempted to steal the base with his team down by a run and the heart of the order coming to the plate. Theriot’s mental mistake of trying to make something happen really hurt his team.

Derrek Lee ended up walking and Aramis Ramirez reached on an infield hit….Ramirez dove head first into the bag and avoided the tag by Perez. Kosuke Fukudome flied out to left to end the inning.

Reed Johnson led off the 5th with a single to right center. Theriot walked and Lee flied out to right center. Johnson advanced on the productive out by Lee and scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Aramis Ramirez….the ball was hit into the hole at short. Theriot was forced at 2nd but Ramirez beat the throw to 1st. Kosuke Fukudome followed with a double down the left field line. The ball appeared to bounce off the top of the wall and Ramirez rounded 3rd and headed from home. But the ball was ruled to have left the field, replays showed it did, and Ramirez had to return to 3rd. With runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs, Mark DeRosa struck out to end the inning.

Ryan Theriot reached on an infield single with 1-out in the 7th inning with the game tied at 2. Derrek Lee worked the count to 3-2 and Theriot took off on the pitch. Lee took an inside pitch for strike three and Wil Nieves threw out Theriot to end the inning. Theriot has been successful 5 times this season stealing bases….and has been caught stealing 5 times as well.

Aramis Ramirez reached on a single to right to start the 8th. Fukudome followed with a single to right. With the Cubs down 3-2, DeRosa sacrificed them to 2nd and 3rd with a perfect bunt. Geovany Soto was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Lou Piniella brought in Daryle Ward to bat for Ronny Cedeno. Manny Acta countered with southpaw Mike O’Connor and Piniella responded to the move by inserting Matt Murton for Ward. Murton walked with the bases loaded to force in the tying run. Henry Blanco was then announced as the pinch hitter for Ryan Dempster. Acta brought in Saul Rivera and Piniella went to his bench again for Mike Fontenot….Fontenot struck out swinging and Reed Johnson grounded out to short to end the inning.

The Cubs were retired in order in the 9th….

While a 2-game losing streak in April, especially with the way they have played over the first month, is not concerning….the way they have lost the last 2 games is. Mental errors and trying to make things happen is not the formula they used to win 9 of the last 12.

Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to start the second game of the series on Saturday night against southpaw Matt Chico.

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