Game Fifty – Cubs 5 Braves 6 – 12 innings
WP – Rafael Soriano (1-0) LP – Aaron Heilman (2-3) Save – None
While Aaron Heilman was credited with the loss on Tuesday night, he was not the sole reason the Chicago Cubs are 25-25 after 50 games of the season. Baseball is a team game, but this loss must be hung on the Cubs pathetic bullpen.
Randy Wells pitched an incredible game and even drove in the Cubs’ second run with his first career big league hit in the second inning. Wells dominated the Braves and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Wells retired the first two batters of the seventh before giving up a clean opposite field hit to Chipper Jones. Wells got out of the inning and took the hill in the eighth up by a score of 5-0.
Randy Wells surrendered his second hit of the game to Garrett Anderson on a 1-1 pitch to start the eighth. Anderson hit a line drive homer, his second of the season, over the wall in right for the Braves first run. Martin Prado then reached on an error by Derrek Lee. Prado hit a routine groundball to Ryan Theriot who fielded the ball cleanly and made a low but accurate throw…Lee just dropped the ball.
Lou Piniella decided that was enough for Randy Wells. Wells departed after throwing only 83 pitches and allowing one run on two hits with four strikeouts in seven-plus innings..
Carlos Marmol was summoned and could not find the strike zone. The free-swinging Jeff Francoeur walked on four pitches. Kosuke Fukudome made a great diving catch in right to take a hit away from Gregor Blanco for the first out of the inning. Marmol then hit pinch-hitter Greg Norton to load the bases.
Marmol walked Kelly Johnson to force in the Braves second run then surrendered a sacrifice fly to Yunel Escobar that cut the Cubs comfortable 5-0 lead to a 5-3 advantage.
Kevin Gregg took the mound in the ninth and retired Brian McCann on a fly out to left on a 3-2 pitch. Garrett Anderson then swung and missed at strike three, but the ball in the dirt got away from Geovany Soto and rolled all the way to the backstop. Anderson reached first easily and brought the tying run to the plate.
On a 0-1 pitch, Martin Prado flied out to center for the second out of the inning.
Jeff Francoeur then launched a 2-1 pitch from Kevin Gregg over the wall in left center and tied the game at five. Gregg’s pitch was right down main street with no movement whatsoever.
The Cubs offense could not gear it back up after the let down and Randy Wells was handed a no decision after a dominating performance.
In a game that began with Alfonso Soriano’s first home run since May 17 that put him into sole possession of second place on the All-Time leadoff home run list with 54…27 behind the leader Ricky Henderson, the feeling at the end when Chipper Jones hit the game winner off Aaron Heilman was of total frustration and utter defeat.
During a baseball season there are positives that can be found even in losses, but not on Tuesday night in Atlanta. The Cubs’ bullpen turned the entire night into the team’s worst loss of the year…and it is up to Lou Piniella to not allow the loss to carry over throughout the road trip. The daily drama of May stayed with the Cubs in the first game of June.
Milton Bradley left the game in the fourth with a right calf strain and is listed as day-to-day. Carlos Zambrano missed the flight with the team to Atlanta and arrived late to the park on Tuesday. Zambrano reportedly blew off the flight without permission and spent time with Lou Piniella before the game. Even with all of that going on behind the scene, a pitcher the Cubs were not depending on when the season began flirted with a no-hitter.
The performance that Randy Wells turned in on Tuesday night will be lost in the incompetence and makeup of the Cubs’ pen. Wells pitched a great game against a team in their park. Randy Wells should be 5-0 as a starter, not 0-2. Hopefully his teammates have not killed the extraordinaire amount of confidence this young man has.
The Cubs offense did a decent job on Tuesday night against a very good pitching staff. Kenshin Kawakami had been very effective at Turner Field and the Cubs put up four runs, three earned, in seven innings.
After Alfonso Soriano gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first, Kawakami retired the next three batters he faced in order. Mike Fontenot reached on a single up the middle with one out in the second. Geovany Soto walked and advanced to third on a throwing error by Chipper Jones.
Jones fielded the grounder off the bat of Andres Blanco, ended up forcing Fontenot at third but threw wide of first base. Soto advanced to third and Blanco ended up at second. Randy Wells then singled into right. His first big league hit and RBI gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead.
Kenshin Kawakami retired 11 in a row after the Wells’ single. Kosuke Fukudome singled off his former teammate with one-out in the sixth. Derrek Lee followed with a double down the third base line. Fukudome scored all the way from first with a great slide. Reed Johnson blooped a single into left center that advanced Lee to third.
With runners on second and third with one-out, Mike Fontenot hit a sacrifice fly to center that plated Lee with the Cubs’ fourth run.
Derrek Lee hit his sixth longball of the season in the eighth off of Manny Acosta that gave the Cubs a 5-0 lead.
The final run of the game was scored off of Aaron Heilman after Yunel Escobar singled to left with one out and stole second. Chipper Jones singled to left on a 3-2 pitch with first base open and Escobar unnecessarily slid home with the game winner.
A tip of the cap to Pat Hughes for the headline.
Wednesday is a new day…and the Cubs’ season must start with game number 51, because the first fifty have been disappointing at best.
Ted Lilly is scheduled to face Derek Lowe on Wednesday night.