Game Fifty-Three – Cubs 3 Reds 4 – 11 innings
WP – Nick Masset (3-0) LP – Sean Marshall (3-5) Save – None
For the third time in the last four games Lou Piniella’s crew ‘played‘ into extra innings and came out on the losing end on Saturday night in Cincinnati. The Cubs once again had plenty of chances to put the game away early on against a rookie pitcher making his big league debut. The Cubs managed only two runs, both solo home runs, off of Matt Maloney in six plus innings and finished the night 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
The Cubs played a horrible game defensively. While Mike Fontenot was not given his second error of the night on the play that ended the game, an accurate throw could have prevented the winning run from scoring. Mike Fontenot’s error in the first inning led to three unearned runs and a huge hole the Cubs struggling offense spent the entire evening trying to dig out of.
The Cubs defense played a big role in the loss. While Chris Dickerson spent the night catching every ball he could dive for, Mike Fontenot and Alfonso Soriano allowed the Reds to put pressure on the Cubs’ pitching staff for a majority of the game.
Sean Marshall, in a game he was scheduled to start, picked up the loss after walking Jay Bruce to start the 11th inning. Marshall then uncorked a wild pitch with Alex Gonzalez at the plate that allowed Bruce to advance. Gonzalez sacrificed him to third and the Cubs intentionally walked Ryan Hanigan. Pinch-hitter Adam Rosales hit a chopper up the third base line that Fontenot made a good play on but his throw was high and pulled Geovany Soto out of position. Jay Bruce scored standing and Dusty Baker celebrated.
The Cubs offense until the eighth inning consisted of solo home runs by Bobby Scales and Geovany Soto. Scales put the Cubs on the board in the fourth inning with his third of the year…one pitch after Reed Johnson was thrown out at third by Chris Dickerson trying to advance on a fly out to center on a ball hit by Geovany Soto.
Geovany Soto hit his second home run of the season in the seventh that chased Maloney from the game.
Jake Fox made his first start of the year in right field and tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Ryan Theriot reached on a one-out single off of David Weathers. With Theriot running, Derrek Lee recorded his second hit of the game, a single to left. Fox then hit a sinking liner into left center that Chris Dickerson made his second diving catch of the game to take a hit away from the Cubs. Theriot tagged and scored just ahead of another strong throw from the Reds’ centerfielder.
Ryan Dempster for the most part pitched a decent game. Dempster struggled with his command from time to time but the defense behind him did not do their job…all three runs the Reds scored in the first inning were unearned. Dempster gave up six hits in six innings with two walks and seven strikeouts.
The turning point in the game came in the first inning. Alfonso Soriano led off with a ringing double down the left field line, his only hit of the game (1-for-4 with a walk and three strikeouts). Matt Maloney hit Ryan Theriot as he squared to bunt. Chris Dickerson then robbed Derrek Lee of a single into left center with his first diving catch of the night.
With Jake Fox at the plate and one out, Lou Piniella called for a double steal. Ryan Hanigan threw to second and Ryan Theriot was called out on a very close play. Theriot was infuriated and Mike Quade quickly separated the Cubs shortstop from second base umpire Damien Beal. Quade argued and Lou Piniella said a few words. The bottom line was the Cubs went from a possible second and third with one out against a rookie pitcher to runner on third with two outs. Jake Fox flied out to deep center two pitches later.
The Cubs looked incredibly flat and uninterested on a beautiful night for baseball at Great American Ball Park. Maybe the Cubs should use the full moon on Saturday night as another one in a line of excuses of why they cannot hit with runners in scoring position. As stated the Cubs had plenty of chances once again but as has been the case this season as soon as a runner touches third base, they forget how to hit the ball.
Changes must be made but with the ownership change unresolved and players not getting the job done, there is not much that Lou Piniella can do right now. While Piniella’s moves can and must be questioned, it is the players that must perform…and they simply are not producing with runners on base.
The Reds scored in only two different innings on Saturday night…three in the first and the winning run in the 11th. Jerry Hairston, Jr. led off the game with a routine grounder to Mike Fontenot at third. Fontenot bobbled the ball then threw wide of Derrek Lee. Hairston held at first.
Chris Dickerson followed with a double to left center that scored Hairston from first…it was a close play, but Hairston was safe. Alfonso Soriano could not cut off the ball in left center and it rolled all the way to the wall.
Brandon Phillips then grounded out to third. Fontenot made a good throw but Dickerson advanced on the play. With the infield in, Laynce Nix looked at strike three for the second out. Ramon Hernandez then launched a 0-1 pitch from Dempster just over the wall in right…3-0 Reds. The only big mistake on the night for Ryan Dempster…who is still winless at Great American Ball Park.
Randy Wells will try to pick-up his first big league win on Sunday afternoon. Wells will have to be on top of his game once again with Bronson Arroyo on the hill…Arroyo has owned the Cubs in his time with the Reds.