Game Twenty-One – Cubs 2 Marlins 8 – 10 innings
WP – Renyel Pinto (2-0) LP – Aaron Heilman (2-1) Save – None
Lou Piniella’s crew finished the first month of the season with a 10-11 record and dropped below the .500 mark for the first time since April 5, 2008. For a team that was expected to run away with the Central Division they have not played anywhere near expectations.
Ron Santo summed up the Cubs first twenty-one games during the top of the tenth inning, “When you look at this team, it’s not one thing. It’s several things.” And when the eternal optimist says that about his team….
The Cubs bullpen wasted one of the best outings by a starter all season. Sean Marshall turned in an excellent performance. He held the Marlins to one run on six hits, his biggest mistake…a solo home run by Jorge Cantu in the seventh inning. The Cubs’ defense turned a pair of double plays behind Marshall, which helped bail him out of some trouble…but the Cubs’ fifth starter walked only two and struck out six. He more than earned the victory.
While Koyie Hill and Alfonso Soriano turned in outstanding defensive plays, the Cubs committed three errors on the night, two by Ryan Theriot and one by Carlos Marmol in the eighth that allowed the Marlins to tie the game. Both the tying and winning runs were scored on errors.
The Cubs had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth. Ryan Theriot led off the inning with a single to center. Kosuke Fukudome struck out on a 3-2 pitch but Theriot stole second with Derrek Lee at the plate. Lee struck out swinging for the second time in the game with a runner in scoring position. Milton Bradley was intentionally walked and Fredi Gonzalez brought in Renyel Pinto to face Mike Fontenot.
Lou Piniella went to his bench for Reed Johnson. Johnson quickly fell behind in the count 0-2 before taking a ball. Johnson then hit a hard grounder up the middle, just to the left of second base. Alfredo Amezaga, filling in for the injured Hanley Ramirez, made a diving stop and forced Milton Bradley at second to end the inning. Why wasn’t Joey Gathright running for Milton Bradley?
The Marlins came out swinging in the tenth against Aaron Heilman and before the Cubs could record three outs, the Marlins scored six runs. For his part, Heilman struggled with his command but Kosuke Fukudome misplayed a ball in center that led to a bloop double by Amezaga to start the inning. Ryan Theriot could not handle a throw from Derrek Lee that allowed the winning run to score. After a squeeze play gave the Marlins a two-run lead, Heilman walked the bases loaded and Jorge Cantu put the game out of reach with a bases clearing double.
Chris Volstad held the Cubs anemic offense in check and on the night they managed just five hits, one walk and five total base runners. Milton Bradley gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead with his first career home run at Wrigley in the fifth. Mike Fontenot followed with his third home run in four games, fourth on the year, and the Cubs hit back-to-back home runs for the first time this season. The Cubs managed only three other hits all night and finished the game 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Following the game Lou Piniella said, “It has nothing to do with patience. It’s about getting hits and scoring runs. What am I supposed to do play my bench?” Maybe it is time for Piniella to try something new to spark this team, if he doesn’t then who will? The Cubs were embarrassed for the fourth time in the last seven games, it seems ego and pride would have already kicked in by now. After putting together one of their better games in a while, through the first seven innings, it turned bad in the eighth and was just plain ugly in the tenth. It did not even look like the same team that had played a solid game defensively behind Sean Marshall.
Carlos Marmol replaced Sean Marshall in the eighth after Brett Carroll was announced as the pinch hitter for Chris Volstad. Fredi Gonzalez sent up Ross Gload instead and Marmol walked him on five pitches.
Marmol continued to struggle with his command and walked Emilio Bonifacio on a 3-2 pitch. With runners on first and second with no outs and the Cubs up 2-1, Cameron Maybin bunted down the third baseline. Marmol picked up the ball, rushed his throw due to Maybin’s speed and hit him near the first base bag. The ball got away from Aaron Miles and Gload scored the tying run on the throwing error.
Jeremy Hermida was called out on a check swing and Marmol got out of the inning by inducing a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Jorge Cantu.
Kevin Gregg was bailed out of a 3-0 hole by Dan Uggla to start the ninth, settled down and retired the Marlins in order to give his team a chance in the bottom of the inning.
The top of the tenth was one of those innings that will hopefully wake a team up. It was beyond ugly and embarrassing.
After the bloop double by Amezaga, Aaron Heilman walked pinch-hitter Wes Helms. Bonifacio followed with a grounder to Derrek Lee in the hole at second. Lee made a good pick and threw to second. Ryan Theriot, instead of making sure of one and keeping the go ahead run at third, appeared to want to turn a double play and the ball went off the top of his glove into left. Gload scored and the Marlins had runners on first and third with no outs.
Cameron Maybin dropped a perfect bunt past Aaron Heilman that brought in Helms with the Marlins’ fourth run. Heilman then walked Jeremy Hermida to load the bases. After jumping ahead of Jorge Cantu 1-2, Cantu worked the count to 3-2 then lined a double to the wall in left center that cleared the bases…7-2 Marlins.
Larry Rothschild made the switch and brought in Angel Guzman to face Dan Uggla. Uggla doubled in Cantu for the eighth and final run. Guzman retired the last three batters he faced but the damage had been done.
Aaron Heilman allowed six runs, five earned, on three hits with two walks and did not record an out….in the tenth inning of a tied game.
Lou Piniella said it is too early to make speeches to his team…well, when will it become to late?
Rich Harden will try to get the Cubs back to .500 on Friday afternoon. The Marlins will send rookie southpaw Graham Taylor to the mound. Taylor will be making his second big league start.