Game One Hundred Thirty-Nine – Cubs 7 Astros 9 – 11 innings
WP – Wesley Wright (4-3) LP – Kerry Wood (4-3) Save – Jose Valverde (39)
In a game that required 4 hours and 17 minutes to play, the Cubs might have lost more than their fourth game in a row at home for the first time this season. After looking very much like Carlos Zambrano in the first 4 innings, Zambrano gave up 2 runs in the 5th and did not return to the mound. Lou Piniella indicated Zambrano removed himself from the game after telling Larry Rothschild he was not feeling good. Piniella stated Zambrano would see the team orthopedist on Wednesday.
The Cubs had plenty of chances to win the game and left a total of 12 runners on base. Derrek Lee’s struggles at the plate, and with grounding into double plays, continued. After a good start to the night, like the rest of his teammates, he grounded into yet another double play with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 8th to end the inning….and in the 10th with Ryan Theriot on 2nd base with the winning run, Lee struck out to end the inning.
The Cubs put the leadoff hitter on in both the 9th and 10th innings and could not come through with a clutch hit or a productive out to get a runner to third with less than 2 outs.
The evening began on a very positive note. Carlos Zambrano looked sharp in the 1st and Alfonso Soriano ended the Cubs extra base hit drought with his 24th home run of the season to start the bottom of the 1st. The Cubs loaded the bases and after the first of four double plays on the night managed only 1 run.
Mark DeRosa and Geovany Soto gave the Cubs a brief 2-run lead in the 4th with solo home runs but the Astros scored two in the 5th and four more in the 6th off of Bobby Howry that dug the Cubs into a huge hole.
The Cubs answered back with three of their own in the bottom of the 6th. Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot hit back-to-back doubles after a leadoff walk by Jim Edmonds and Mike Fontenot came through with a clutch 2-out single that cut the Astros lead to 7-6.
Jim Edmonds hit the Cubs’ fourth solo home run of the night in the 7th. His 17th of the year and 16th as a Cubs tied the game at 7.
Angel Guzman made his 2008 debut and pitched a scoreless inning of relief in the 7th. Carlos Marmol was plain nasty in the 8th and 9th but Kerry Wood could not keep the Astros off the board in his second inning of work.
Wood worked around the second of three errors by Aramis Ramirez in the 10th but a very questionable call on ball four to Lance Berkman in the 11th put the winning run on and then Geoff Blum ended it with one swing of the bat. Blum hit a 2-run no doubter into the bleachers in right to give the Astros their 7th consecutive win.
Tuesday night’s loss was a rough one. These are games that good teams must pull out at home. They had plenty of chances and could not come through with the game on the line. To say the Cubs are not playing good ball right now….would be an understatement. Too many errors and lack of fundamentals cost them their first series at home since they lost 2 of 3 to the Orioles from June 24th – June 26th. With the Brewers dropping their second in a row to the Mets, the Cubs did not lose any ground in the standings….and hopefully they have not lost their ace for any amount of time. The Cubs offense battled back in impressive fashion after Bobby Howry tried to give the game away. Howry was warming in the pen in the 5th and after Zambrano removed himself, Lou Piniella put Bobby Howry into a tie game in the 6th inning against a fastball hitting team. Howry once again did not fool any of the Astros hitters and was greeted by Hunter Pence with a triple into the ivy in center….Jim Edmonds tried to make a catch on the wall and as he hit the ivy he jarred another ball loose. Edmonds picked up the correct ball as the speedy Pence motored around the bases.
Bobby Howry faced 5 batters, all reached and 4 of them scored. Howry did not record an out and while Chad Gaudin might be unavailable right now, Tuesday night would have been a good time to get Jon Lieber back on a major league mound. Bobby Howry’s days as a Cub reliever must be over. He can no longer do his job and with performances like the one in Atlanta, no lead is safe when he takes the hill.
Bobby Howry should not be the scapegoat for the loss on Tuesday night. Other players did not do their job as well….and for one of the few times this season, Lou Piniella did not pull the right strings.
Tuesday night at Wrigley was a bad game for the Chicago Cubs and hopefully one that will soon be forgotten.
Ryan Dempster will try to salvage the finale of the homestand and series on Wednesday night against Randy Wolf.