Game Fifty-Six – Cubs 1 Astros 2
WP – Chris Sampson (3-0) LP – Angel Guzman (2-1) Save – None
Lou Piniella’s crew dropped their third one-run game of the road trip despite a tremendous performance by Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano turned in one of his better outings of the season after finding his rhythm early in the game. Zambrano pounded the strike zone for a majority of the night … and at the beginning of the seventh inning, Zambrano had thrown only 70 pitches. Z finished the night tossing 104, 64 for strikes, and until the seventh it appeared that he would be able to hold up the 1-0 lead that Geovany Soto gave him in the second inning … but that all changed with his second walk of the night.
Carlos Zambrano allowed only one run on three hits in eight innings with three strikeouts and two walks … but it was a walk to Hunter Pence to lead off the seventh that would come around to tie the game. After Pence walked, Carlos Lee singled to center and Pence advanced to third with no outs. Zambrano retired Lance Berkman on a infield pop-up but Geoff Blum grounded into a 4-1 fielder’s choice that plated Pence with the tying run.
Carlos Zambrano retired the side in order in the eighth to complete his night.
Angel Guzman had not allowed an earned run since May 9 … until Wednesday night. Miguel Tejada led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to center. Hunter Pence was given a gift on the fifth pitch of his at bat and walked after first base umpire Ed Rapuano indicated he did not swing at a 3-1 pitch.
Carlos Lee flied out to center on a 1-0 pitch, Tejada tagged and advanced to third. Guzman intentionally walked Lance Berkman to load the bases with one-out. Geoff Blum came through again and knocked a clean single into center on a 1-2 pitch from Guzman. Tejada scored easily and the Astros celebrated near first base.
The Cubs offense was once again a no-show. Wandy Rodriguez labored through seven innings but they managed just five hits and two walks off the Astros’ southpaw. Geovany Soto hit his third home run of the year (and his second in three games) off Rodriguez in the second that accounted for the Cubs only run … three of the Cubs’ five hits off Rodriguez did not make it out of the infield.
The Cubs finished the night 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and left seven on base … in the last three games the Cubs have stranded 38 baserunners.
The Cubs lost a very winnable game but still have a chance to pick up their second road series win in a row on Thursday…
Milton Bradley hit third for Lou Piniella on Wednesday night and continued to struggle. The Cubs have to get him on the right track but he could end up missing more time. Bradley appeared to hurt his leg after he grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the fifth. Bradley stumbled out of the box and grabbed what appeared to be his calf after reaching first base. He remained in the game and finished the night 1-for-4 with two left on base. Bradley is 1-for-10 since returning from his latest injury with 12 left on base.
If Lou Piniella is insistent on leaving Bradley in the lineup, which is the right call, he has to bat him further down in the lineup until he starts producing.
Ryan Dempster will face Russ Ortiz in the rubber game of the series, and the Cubs last game of the year in Houston, on Wednesday afternoon.