Game Fifty-Nine – Cubs 0 Twins 2
WP – Anthony Swarzak (2-2) LP – Rich Harden (4-3) Save – Joe Nathan (15)
The Chicago Cubs lead the majors in quality starts yet due to another pathetic performance on Saturday by the offense, the Cubs are a game under .500 for the third time this season. Lou Piniella initially refused to talk about the Cubs’ offense after being shutout for the fifth time this year. Once he decided to discuss the glaring problem with his team, Piniella said he does not know what to do with the offense. Piniella pointed out he has played everyone they have and he has mixed up the lineup … Piniella sounded more than frustrated and disgusted with the lack of offense from his team.
The Cubs dropped to 2-5 on the season against rookie pitchers and allowed Anthony Swarzak to turn in his best outing of his big league career. Swarzak struck out a career-high six batters and walked just one … a new career low after only five Major League starts. The Cubs made a lot of routine outs against Swarzak and really did not hit the ball hard all afternoon.
The Cubs tried to mount a comeback in the ninth, which would have been just their second of the year at Wrigley. Milton Bradley got a gift on a 2-2 pitch from Joe Nathan and ended up walking to start the inning. Derrek Lee lined a single to left off of Joe Crede’s glove and the Cubs had two runners on base for only the second time in the game.
With the tying runs on base, Lou Piniella pinch-hit for Geovany Soto and inserted Andres Blanco to lay down a bunt … something that would not have been thought about a year ago when Soto was hitting the ball. Blanco did his job and advanced Bradley and Lee into scoring position with one-out.
Kosuke Fukudome, who has begun his offensive decent, struck out swinging on three pitches. On a 2-0 pitch from Joe Nathan, Ryan Theriot hit a lazy fly into right to end the game.
Rich Harden put together an excellent outing in his first start since May 17. Harden allowed only two runs on five hits in six innings with two walks and nine strikeouts … his most strikeouts since April 26 in St. Louis. Harden made only two mistakes and he accepted responsibility following the game for putting his team in an early hole.
Jason Kubel hit his second home run of the series off of Harden in the second inning that ended up on Sheffield … it was Kubel’s fourth home run in five games. The Twins second run came in the third on a one-out RBI single to right by Joe Mauer.
Jose Ascanio, Sean Marshall and Kevin Gregg each tossed an inning of no-hit ball in relief of Rich Harden.
The Twins did not record another hit off Cubs’ pitching following the RBI single by Joe Mauer in the third inning.
The Cubs lost their fourth game in a row … and have dropped 16 of their last 24 games. While the Cubs’ pitching staff has been lights out for the most part over the last three weeks, the Cubs’ offense has been abysmal at best. There is no excuse for why this team is under performing to this magnitude. Derrek Lee is the only Cub hitting right now and of the five hits on Saturday, two of them belonged to Lee … who extended his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest for any Cub this season.
Alfonso Soriano is hurt and his numbers back up that statement. Soriano is hitting only .158 since May 17 and needs a couple of days off. Reed Johnson needs to play everyday, regardless if there is a lefty on the mound or not and Micah Hoffpauir can provide the defense and offense that Milton Bradley is right now.
Lou Piniella asked the question following the game, “What else can I do?” Well, for one don’t send down two players that were producing and are willing to give it there all every time they step between the lines.
There is no sugarcoating the way the Chicago Cubs are playing right now. This is a bad team that is pressing and appears to have little to no chemistry in the clubhouse.
Ted Lilly will try to end the four-game losing streak on Sunday against Scott Baker … but the offense must bring their bats to the park, and use them.