Game Seventy-Three – Cubs 3 Rays 8
WP – Grant Balfour (2-0) LP – Carlos Marmol (1-2) Save – None
It took 73 games into the 2008 season for the Cubs to lose their third game in a row. The Tampa Bay Rays swept Lou Piniella’s crew after the bullpen wasted a strong performance by Sean Gallagher and a late inning comeback against James Shields. The Rays managed only an unearned run off of Gallagher through the first 6 innings. Gallagher turned in a very good performance and was in line for his first big league victory on the road. The Cubs took the lead 3-1 in the top of the 7th just to see it disappear very quickly in the bottom of the inning.
Micah Hoffpauir led off the 7th with a double, Mark DeRosa walked and Mike Fontenot tied the game with a ground rule double to left center. Kosuke Fukudome gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead with a bloop single to left and Ryan Theriot drove in Fontenot with a single to center….3-1 Cubs.
The usually reliable Carlos Marmol could not find the strike zone. He walked the first two hitters he faced and then hit back-to-back batters to force in a run before being lifted for Scott Eyre. With the score 3-2, Eyre served up Carl Crawford’s 5th home run of the year….a grand slam into the seats in right that gave the Rays a 6-3 lead and took the air out of the entire team. Eyre then gave up a triple to B.J. Upton and a double to Eric Hinske to make it 7-3….still with no outs. Hinske stole 3rd and scored on Evan Langoria’s sacrifice fly to left.
The Rays plated 7 runs in the 7th inning on 4 hits, 2 walks and 2 hit batsmen.
The Cubs finished the 6-game, three city road trip with a 2-4 record. Even with the sweep at the hands of the Rays, the Cubs still own the best winning percentage in all of baseball and maintained their 3 1/2 game lead in the Central Division. Without making too many excuses for a poorly played series in Tampa, the Cubs appeared very tired throughout the 3 games and faced two of the best young arms in the game….with Andy Sonnanstine not being too shabby himself. The Cubs have logged a lot of miles since the first of the month. With a 7-game road trip out west to start the month (4-3), a 3-game sweep of the Braves at Wrigley and a 2-4 record after a three-city trip, with their first, and only, games of the season on artificial turf. So since June 1st, the Cubs are 9-7 in their last 16 games. At the beginning of the month, the Cubs were looking at a very difficult month….and with injuries to Alfonso Soriano, Reed Johnson, Jim Edmonds and Carlos Zambrano, the difficult month got a little harder.
The Faithful have thought for the last calendar year that Lou Piniella was the right man for the job….well the next few weeks will tell what kind of a manager he really is. The sky is not falling, the season is not over, every player on the roster must decide, and soon, it is time to step up in the face of adversity.
For long time readers of the site, this is one of those few times that the events surrounding the game were more important than the game itself. The full game recaps will return on Friday, win or lose, but after the last 24 hours there is little left to be said. The Cubs bullpen blew a game they should have won. Carlos Marmol had his first true bad outing of the year and Scott Eyre could not record an out before allowing 6 runs to score….
The Cubs will be back at home on Friday afternoon to face the White Sox in the first game of the Crosstown Classic. Remember the motto of the CCO….Stay Classy Cubs Fans!! Ted Lilly is scheduled to face John Danks in the series opener.