Game Fifty-Seven – Cubs 1 Astros 2 – 13 innings
WP – Jeff Fulchino (2-1) LP – Jose Ascanio (0-1) Save – None
For the second game in a row the Cubs lost 2-1 to the Astros on a game winning single by Geoff Blum … and the offense wasted another strong pitching performance from Ryan Dempster and three relievers. The Cubs offense is simply horrific right now. They cannot score unless they hit the ball out of the park. After plating seven runs on Tuesday night the Cubs managed only two runs in the final twenty-two innings of the series, both solo home runs.
The Cubs had chances early on against Russ Ortiz but could not come up with any hits with runners on base and managed only three hits in 5 1/3 innings off of Ortiz.. The Cubs were 0-for-6 on Thursday afternoon with runners in scoring position and left eight more on base … a total of 46 runners left on base in the last four games.
For as bad as the Cubs offense has been, the pitching staff has been equally as good. Ryan Dempster turned in another quality start and other than struggling a little in the first inning, Dempster did his job. The Astros scored only one run off Dempster, in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Lee. Dempster struck out four, did not walk a batter and lowered his ERA to 3.87 for the season.
Carlos Marmol pitched his first multi-inning game of the year. Other than a walk to Lance Berkman, Marmol was perfect. Kevin Gregg tosses two innings of scoreless relief as well. Gregg gave up three hits and pitched around an error by Andres Blanco in the tenth.
Jose Ascanio retired the Astros in order in the 12th but issued a one-out walk to Hunter Pence in the 13th that ended up being the difference. Ascanio struck out Jason Michaels for the second out but Pence stole second on the swinging strikeout. Ascanio intentionally walked Lance Berkman … and Geoff Blum made the Cubs pay once again.
Geoff Blum ripped a 1-1 pitch from Ascanio down the right field line that plated Hunter Pence with the game winner.
The Cubs only run came in the top of the ninth off of LaTroy Hawkins. Derrek Lee hit his seventh home run of the year over the wall in right on a 1-2 pitch to tie the game at one.
The Cubs lack of execution with runners on base sent them into extra innings for the fifth time in their last eight games and they finished their eight-game road trip with 4-4 record. All four losses on the trip were by one-run and on the year Lou Piniella’s crew is 6-11 in one-run games. Right now the Cubs are playing to the true definition of a .500 team. There is no consistency whatsoever and the law of averages will eventually catch up with the pitching staff. The players that were brought into produce are not doing their job and until they do, this team will hover around the .500 mark for the remainder of the summer.
The Astros run off of Ryan Dempster came in the first inning after a leadoff double by Michael Bourn. Miguel Tejada reached on an infield single due to a great play up the middle by Andres Blanco that saved a run.
Dempster struck out Hunter Pence on a 3-2 pitch but Carlos Lee hit a sacrifice fly into right that plated Bourn. Lance Berkman struck out swinging to end the inning.
The Astros did not score again until the 13th inning. Ryan Dempster and the bullpen did their job … too bad the offense has forgotten how to hit.
The Cubs begin Interleague Play on Friday with the first of fifteen straight against the American League. The Twins open a three-game set at Wrigley and will send Kevin Slowey to the mound against Randy Wells.