Game Eighty-Two – Cubs 1 Braves 4
WP – Kenshin Kawakami (5-6) LP – Kevin Hart (0-1) Save – Rafael Soriano (10)
The frustration surrounding the Chicago Cubs might be hitting a boiling point … and not with just the Faithful. After another pathetic performance by the offense, Lou Piniella told the media that they should ask the players and the hitting coach why they are not hitting and scoring runs. After a weekend of putting crooked numbers on the board and a solid start on Monday night, the Cubs managed just two runs over the last 24 innings of the three game series.
The Cubs managed to win only two out of the six games against Atlanta this season after sweeping the season series a year ago. Wednesday’s game was within reach again but after a sloppy ninth, the heart of the Cubs lineup went quickly in the bottom of the inning to close out the series.
Kevin Hart made his first career big league start on Wednesday. He struggled with his command and gave up five walks, one intentional, but allowed only one run on four hits. While Hart’s performance was shaky at best, he kept his team in the game and gave them a chance to win. If Kevin Hart is the Cubs’ fifth starter while Ryan Dempster is on the DL, Hart did on Wednesday what is expected from a back of the rotation starter.
The Cubs only run came via Kosuke Fukudome’s seventh home run leading off the sixth inning. The offense walked twice and managed only six hits on Wednesday against the Braves’ staff, four against Kenshin Kawakami. The Cubs put two runners on base at the same time just once on Wednesday afternoon … and that is not going to win many games at the big league level.
The Braves showed the Cubs the value of defense throughout the series. Yunel Escobar put on another clinic Wednesday and robbed Kosuke Fukudome of at least a game tying single in the eighth. The Braves turned three double plays, one of the inning ending variety in the sixth.
Lou Piniella’s crew slipped to the .500 mark once again this season and finished the 22-games in 22 days stretch with an 11-11 mark … The Braves first run came in the third inning after a two-out double by Nate McLouth. McLouth ripped a ball down the first base line that hit the bag and ended up in right field. Martin Prado followed with a single to left. Jake Fox misplayed the ball but the error did not hurt the Cubs … McLouth scored and would have without the error. Prado ended up at second but was stranded there when Brian McCann flied out to right on a 2-1 pitch to end the inning.
Kevin Hart pitched his way in and out of a jam in the fourth. Yunel Escobar led off the inning with a single to center. Casey Kotchman hit what appeared to be tailor made double play ball to second base. Jeff Baker’s throw pulled Ryan Theriot off the bag. Escobar was called safe but Kotchman was out at first.
Jeff Francoeur grounded back to the mound and they caught Escobar in a run down between second and third. Escobar was eventually tagged out on a poorly executed play … Jeff Francoeur ended up at second on the botched run down. Brooks Conrad was intentionally walked to bring up the pitcher.
Kevin Hart could not throw strikes and issued his fifth walk of the game to Kenshin Kawakami on five pitches. With the bases loaded and two outs, Nate McLouth lined out to left center to end the inning … McLouth did not miss Hart’s pitch, Kosuke Fukudome just caught it.
Casey Kotchman led off the sixth against Angel Guzman and ripped a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right. With the way the Cubs’ offense was not performing a 2-0 hole seemed insurmountable at that point.
Kosuke’s home run cut the Cubs’ deficit in half in the sixth but the game got out of hand in the ninth.
Nate McLouth reached on a one-out single to center against Kevin Gregg. Martin Prado followed with a sinking liner to center that got past Fukudome. McLouth scored all the way from first and Prado ended up at third on the error. After retiring Garrett Anderson on a groundout to short with the infield in, Gregg uncorked a wild pitch on the first offering to Brian McCann … Prado scored the Braves’ fourth and final run.
For the record in the ninth the Cubs went down in order. Derrek Lee struck out swinging, Aramis Ramirez flied out to center and Milton Bradley struck out on a 3-2 pitch to end the game.
The Cubs have four big games in three days against the Cardinals to close out the first half … hopefully their first off day since June 15 will wake up the offense.
The Cubs are off on Thursday. Rich Harden is slated to start the opener on Friday. Tony LaRussa is set to send Brad Thompson to the mound.