Game Eighty-One – Cubs 1 Braves 2
WP – Javier Vazquez (6-7) LP – Carlos Zambrano (4-4) Save – Rafael Soriano (9)
On a very cool night at Wrigley Field, Javier Vazquez dominated the Cubs for the second time this season. The Cubs managed only one run in two games this year against Vazquez on 14 hits in 13 2/3 innings with two walks and 11 strikeouts. The Cubs made Vazquez work early on Tuesday but could not manage a walk and recorded only five hits. Of Vazquez’s six wins this year, two have come at the Cubs expense.
Carlos Zambrano put together a solid outing on short rest. With Ryan Dempster placed on the DL earlier in the day, Zambrano was forced into duty just four days after a solid start against the Brewers. Zambrano pitched six innings and gave up two runs on five hits. Brian McCann drove in both of the Braves’ runs with two-out hits … a RBI single in the first and a RBI double in the third.
The Cubs offense simply could not find any rhythm against Vazquez … but had chances late in the game. Ryan Theriot doubled with two outs in the eighth, the Cubs lone hit from the top three spots in the lineup (1-for-12 with four strikeouts) but Derrek Lee popped out to end the inning.
Alfonso Soriano (2-for-4) reached on a two-out single in the ninth. Mike Fontenot battled but on the seventh pitch of his at bat, grounded out to Yunel Escobar, with a little help from Rafael Soriano, to end the game.
The Cubs lone run came in the second inning. Micah Hoffpauir led off with a single to right center. Aramis Ramirez (2-for-4) followed with his first hit since returning from the DL, a single to center. After Alfonso Soriano struck out and Mike Fontenot flied out to deep right center, Koyie Hill singled to center on a 3-2 pitch and plated Hoffpauir with the Cubs’ only run of the evening.
While the game will be billed as a pitcher’s duel, the Braves defense was the difference on Tuesday night. The Braves took several hits away from the Cubs offense … and both Nate McLouth and Yunel Escobar put on defensive clinics.
The Cubs lost to the Braves at Wrigley for the first time since June 3, 2007 … and on the year have lost three of the first five to Bobby Cox’s team. Nate McLouth led off the game with a walk … and after a blown call it hurt Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs. Martin Prado sacrificed McLouth to second. After getting ahead of Garrett Anderson 0-1, Zambrano wheeled and threw to second. Ryan Theriot appeared to get the tag down on McLouth but he was called safe … replays showed McLouth was out. Anderson grounded out to second, McLouth advanced to third and scored on Brian McCann’s single to right center.
After the Cubs finally plated a run off of Javier Vazquez in the second, Martin Prado reached on a single to right on a 3-2 pitch. Zambrano struck out Garrett Anderson on three pitches but Brian McCann doubled down the left field line on a 2-1 pitch … Prado scored all the way from first with the eventual game-winner.
For as solid as Carlos Zambrano was, he pitched behind in the count a majority of the night and that hurt him in the first three innings.
Angel Guzman pitched the seventh and other than a one-out double by Nate McLouth showed the same control before his DL stint. Sean Marshall retired the Braves in order in the eighth and Aaron Heilman wiggled out of runners on first and second with no outs in the ninth without allowing a run … Mike Fontenot made a solid defensive play on a ball hit by Martin Prado to end the inning.
Tuesday night was one of the games a team drops during a long season. There was no drama after a day filled with “Cubbie Occurrences“. The Cubs ended the first half of the season with a 41-40 record … not what many expected or predicted but not as bad as it could have been considering the daily dramas and all of the injuries.
Carlos Zambrano said following the game that the team’s record should not be focused on but the fact they are still in the race for their third division crown.
Kevin Hart will make his first big league start on Wednesday afternoon subbing for Ryan Dempster. The Braves are slated to send Kenshin Kawakami to the mound in the rubber game of the series.