Game Forty-Nine – Cubs 4 Pirates 5 – 14 innings
WP – John Grabow (4-1) LP – Michael Wuertz (0-1) Save – None
The Cubs lost their first game of the year at PNC Park and most importantly fell to 2-3 on the road trip. Michael Wuertz took the loss after Henry Blanco was unable to scoop a low throw in the dirt by Ryan Theriot. Freddy Sanchez advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch and to 3rd on a ground out to short by Luis Rivas. After an intentional walk to Nate McLouth, Jason Bay hit a single into left center past the drawn in outfield to end the game.
While the game was decided in the 14th inning, there were two plays and a decision by Lou Piniella that played a part in the final outcome. The Cubs battled back and took the lead in the 8th inning. Down 3-1, Ryan Theriot walked, Derrek Lee singled and Aramis Ramirez hit a game tying double into the corner in left that allowed Lee to score all the way from 1st base. With 2 outs, Kosuke Fukudome lined a single into center that scored Ramirez with the go ahead run.
After a shaky start to the 8th, Carlos Marmol struck out the side and preserved the lead. Alfonso Soriano led off the 9th with his only hit of the game, a double to the gap in right center. Ryan Theriot squared to bunt, Soriano wandered too far off the bag and was picked off 2nd by Raul Chavez….the all-important insurance run.
Kerry Wood relieved Marmol in the 9th and hit his 5th batter of the season, pinch-hitter Doug Mientkiewicz, to start the inning. Xavier Nady followed with a single to center. Freddy Sanchez sacrificed both runners into scoring position and Luis Rivas hit a sacrifice fly into right that plated Mientkiewicz with the tying run….Wood’s 4th blown save of the year.
In the bottom of the 12th, Lou Piniella made a double switch with 2 on and 2 out. Piniella replaced Scott Eyre with Michael Wuertz and Derrek Lee for Henry Blanco, at 1st base. Piniella has made more right calls this season than incorrect calls but that decision had a direct impact on the game. Not only did Derrek Lee’s spot in the lineup make it back around, but the winning run was scored on an error that Lee likely would have prevented.
As the saying goes, everyone wins 60 and everyone loses 60….it is what a team does with the other 42 that determines a season. Unfortunately, this was a game the Cubs had plenty of chances to win and one they should have won.
Nate McLouth drew a 1-out walk in the 4th and scored on Jason Bay’s 12th home run of the season….a 2-run shot to left. Marquis then retired Adam LaRoche on a groundout to short but gave up an infield single to Jason Michaels….the ball hugged the 3rd base line and Aramis Ramirez let it roll, it was the right play. But Marquis walked Jose Bautista before retiring Raul Chavez on a fly out to right.
Ron Santo preaches the importance, so does Len Kasper (and the CCO will as well in the near future), of the shutdown inning. Once a team gives a pitcher the lead, it is deflating to see the lead, and the momentum, given right back. On more than one occasion, especially on this road trip, the offense has given their pitcher a lead just to see it disappear in the bottom half of the inning. It is vital to a team on the road to get a lead, take the ‘air‘ out of the park, see their pitcher retire the opposition 1-2-3 and get back in the dugout and try to add to the lead….not try to make a comeback. The Cubs pitching staff, with the exception of Carlos Zambrano, must develop this mindset quickly or June will be a very long month.
Back to the game….
Marquis settled back down and retired the Pirates in order for the second time in the 5th. But after the Pirates escaped a bases loaded jam in the top of the 6th (Mark DeRosa struck out looking with the bases loaded), their offense stepped it up against Marquis.
Jason Bay and Adam LaRoche reached on back-to-back singles with 1-out and Jason Michaels singled to left to plate Bay with the Pirates third run.
Bobby Howry replaced Marquis, threw two pitches and got out of the jam….Bautista grounded into a 5-4-3 double play, the Cubs third of the night.
Other than Kerry Wood and Michael Wuertz, the Cubs bullpen was solid once again.
With the loss, the Cubs became the last team in Major League Baseball to lose their 20th game of the season. This is a good team, with a good manager that had a bad outcome in an extra inning game on the road. Piniella has to figure out what is going on with his crew on the road and find a solution quickly.
Piniella also has the tall task of determining what is going on with Alfonso Soriano’s legs, or confidence, or whatever it is because as good as he was during the homestand, he has been equally as bad on this road trip. Soriano is not playing at 100% right now and it is hurting his team.
The Cubs will try to win the series and leave Pittsburgh with a .500 mark on the current 6-game road trip on Sunday behind Ted Lilly. The ‘Bulldog‘ will face fellow southpaw, Paul Maholm.