Game Sixty-Eight – Cubs 3 Tigers 5
WP – Zach Miner (5-1, BS 2) LP – Rich Harden (4-4) Save – Fernando Rodney (15)
The Cubs cannot buy a hit with runners in scoring position. After a 0-for-6 shutout on Monday, a 0-for-8 performance on Tuesday the Cubs were 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday night … 0-for-14 when it counted. The Cubs lone hit with a runner in scoring position was a single to left by Kosuke Fukudome that loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the sixth. Remove the one single that did not plate a run and the Cubs are a pathetic 0-for-28 with runners in scoring position in the last three games.
The Cubs had more than their fare share of chances. They loaded the bases in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings and managed a total of two runs. Mike Fontenot grounded into a force out in the sixth that tied the game at two and Jake Fox hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh that cut the Tigers lead in half. Lou Piniella’s crew out hit the Tigers, 11-10 and walked seven times … an unbelievable 13 runners left on base in a game lost by two runs on the road.
The Cubs fell back to .500 on the season at 34-34 … and the main reason, they simply cannot hit with runners on base.
Wednesday night in Detroit highlighted all of the Cubs defencies this season: Poor baserunning, lack of clutch hitting and questionable defense … plus a bullpen that cannot throw strikes late in the game. Both Aaron Heilman and Carlos Marmol issued walks with the bases loaded that forced in the Tigers’ last two runs. As the old cliché goes, gotta make ‘em earn it.
Derrek Lee had another good night at the plate. Lee extended his career-high hitting streak to 21 games with a single to left in the seventh. Lee finished his first game of the year in the DH role 1-for-2 with three walks. The Tigers did not give Lee much to hit … five pitches in the fourth resulted in a walk, four straight in the fifth for his second walk and four straight out of the zone in the ninth for his third walk of the game. Until the rest of the offense starts to contribute, Lee will continue to be pitched around … especially in close games.
Rich Harden was effective despite a lot of deep counts. Harden lasted just 5 1/3 innings and threw 109 pitches, 58 for strikes. Harden allowed four runs, two earned, on four hits with four walks and three strikeouts. Two of the Tigers’ four hits were solo home runs by Miguel Cabrera and Gerald Laird. The last two runs off Harden were unearned due to an error by Geovany Soto that led to the Tigers’ two-run sixth inning. Soto dropped a foul pop up off the bat of Marcus Thames. Harden ended up walking Thames two pitches later and he scored the eventual winning run after Aaron Heilman walked Curtis Granderson with the bases loaded.
While the Cubs’ offense has been stuck in neutral since Aramis Ramirez went on the DL, the Cubs are a very different team on the road. At Wrigley they find ways to win on the road it seems like they find ways to lose. The Cubs went quietly in the first inning and it appeared like it was going to be a long night. Rick Porcello retired the Cubs in order with three groundouts with very few pitches. Micah Hoffpauir led off the second with a single and Milton Bradley walked. The Cubs had runners on first and second with no outs …
Jake Fox nearly grounded into a triple play. Fox hit a grounder to Brandon Inge at third. Inge touched the back, threw to second and forced Bradley … Placido Polanco almost turned it fast enough for an around the horn triple play. Kosuke Fukudome struck out to end the inning.
Ryan Theriot reached on an infield single to start the fourth. Derrek Lee walked and the Cubs had runners on first and second with no outs …
Micah Hoffpauir popped out, Milton Bradley was called out on a check swing and Jake Fox grounded out to second to end the inning.
Geovany Soto tied the game at one in the fifth. Soto hit his eighth of the year over the wall in left. After Mike Fontenot grounded out, Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Theriot singled with two outs. Derrek Lee walked on four pitches to load the bases … but Micah Hoffpauir struck out swinging to end the inning.
With the Cubs down by one in the sixth, Milton Bradley reached on a leadoff walk. Jake Fox singled to center and the Cubs had runners on first and second with no outs …
Jim Leyland lifted Rick Porcello and brought in Nate Robertson to face Kosuke. Fukudome attempted a couple of bunts before singling to left to load the bases … the Cubs lone hit with runners in scoring position.
Leyland made the slow walk again and brought in Zach Miner to face Geovany Soto. Soto struck out looking for the first out of the inning. Mike Fontenot grounded out to Polanco at second. Fukudome was forced but Bradley scored and tied the game at two. Alfonso Soriano popped out to end the inning.
Ryan Theriot led off the seventh with a walk and the Cubs down 4-2. Derrek Lee singled and the Cubs had runners on first and second with no outs …
Jim Leyland brought in Bobby Seay to face Micah Hoffpauir. On a 1-2 pitch, Hoffpauir lined out to second. Leyland went to his pen again and brought in the right-hander, Brandon Lyon to turn Milton Bradley around. Bradley walked to load the bases after starting the at bat 0-2. Jake Fox followed with a sacrifice fly to right center that plated Theriot and cut the Tigers lead to 4-3.
Fukudome grounded out to first to end the inning.
The Cubs went quietly in the eighth but it was more of the same in the ninth.
Down by two, Derrek Lee walked to start the inning. Micah Hoffpauir blooped a single into left center and the Cubs had runners on first and second with no outs …
Milton Bradley struck out swinging, Jake Fox flied out to right center and Kosuke looked at a very high strike three on a 3-2 pitch (it was out of the strike zone) to end the game.
The Tigers tack on runs came via free passes. After Soto’s error gave Marcus Thames a new life to start the sixth, Thames walked with the game tied at two. Harden retired Don Kelly on a pop out to short, then walked Brandon Inge on five pitches.
Lou Piniella brought in Aaron Heilman with two on and one out. Magglio Ordonez blooped a single into right to load the bases. Gerald Laird hit a rocket to Jake Fox that he held onto for the second out. Adam Everett followed with an infield single to third. Fox made a nice diving stop, that saved a run, but he could not get to his feet quick enough to throw out Everett.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Aaron Heilman walked Curtis Granderson to force in the Tigers’ fourth run. Heilman retired Polanco on a groundout to second to end the inning.
Jose Ascanio took the mound in the eighth with the Cubs down by only one run. Ascanio struggled again and gave up a single to Magglio Ordonez to start the inning. Gerald Laird pushed a bunt to the right side past the mound. It was perfectly executed but pinch runner Josh Anderson tried to advance to third after no one picked up the ball. Fontenot finally did and threw out Anderson at third.
Adam Everett singled to left and chased Ascanio from the game.
Sean Marshall struck out Curtis Granderson on three pitches for the second out. Piniella brought in Carlos Marmol … which ended up being a mistake. Marmol issued back-to-back walks to Placido Polanco and Miguel Cabrera to force in the Tigers’ fifth run. In 33 innings this season, Marmol has issued 35 free passes. Marmol struck out Marcus Thames to end the inning.
Once again this season, the Cubs lost a very winnable game.
Ted Lilly will try to salvage the final game of the series on Thursday. The Tigers will counter with Armando Galarraga.