Game One Hundred Twenty-Nine – Cubs 3 Astros 5
WP – Roy Oswalt (8-5) LP – Rich Harden (8-8) Save – Jose Valverde (20)
The Chicago Cubs began August a half game back of the Cardinals in the division and seven games over .500. After their fourth loss in seven games on this homestand, Lou Piniella’s crew finished August with an 11-17 record, 10 ½ games behind the division leaders and just a game over .500 with a 65-64 record.
Roy Oswalt picked up his first win against a team not in the NL West this season. Oswalt beat the Cubs for the first time in nearly a year with a solid performance. Oswalt held the Cubs woeful offense to two runs on six hits in seven innings.
Roy Oswalt, LaTroy Hawkins and Jose Valverde held the middle of the Cubs’ order (2-6) to just one hit (1-for-19 with a walk), a solo home run by Derrek Lee in the eighth. Lee reached base three times on the night.
Jeff Baker continued to make a case for being in the Cubs’ plans for next season. Baker finished 2-for-4 with a run scored. Koyie Hill doubled in Baker in the fifth and scored on a two-out RBI single by Ryan Theriot. Theriot finished the game 2-for-4 with a RBI.
Rich Harden picked a bad time to have his worst start of the second half. Harden was erratic at best. He walked a season-high six batters in five innings with nine strikeouts. The six walks is just one short of his career-high of seven set back on August 21, 2003 against the Boston Red Sox. In his previous three starts Harden allowed a combined four earned runs … but on Monday night Harden allowed five runs on just five hits with four of the runs driven in by the biggest Cub killer of them all, Carlos Lee.
Carlos Lee had another huge game at Wrigley Field. Lee knocked in two with a bases loaded single in the third and hit his 22nd homer of the year … a two-run shot in the fifth that proved to be the difference in the game.
The Cubs’ bullpen did their job once again. Aaron Heilman, Kevin Gregg and John Grabow tossed four innings of shutout ball, allowed just three hits with a walk and struck out six. Cubs’ pitching recorded 15 strikeouts on Monday night.
The Astros won for just the sixth time in their last 23 games outside of Minute Maid Park after jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the first five innings.
On Monday the Cubs did not trade either Rich Harden or Aaron Heilman, which signaled to many they do not feel like their post-season aspirations are over. Too bad their play on the field does not reflect the same desire … The Cubs continued to play the same game they had for a majority of the season. No clutch hits, little patience at the plate and the inability to pick up a runner from third with less than two outs.
Roy Oswalt threw just 98 pitches in seven innings, 68 for strikes and walked only one batter … the Cubs lone free pass of the night. Oswalt put together his best outing against the Cubs in several years.
Lou Piniella’s offense managed only one hit (a leadoff single by Ryan Theriot) and a walk (Derrek Lee in the fourth) over the first four innings. Jeff Baker recorded the Cubs second hit, a one-out single to right in the fifth. Baker scored on a double by Koyie Hill. After Mike Fontenot pinch hit for Rich Harden and flied out to left on the first pitch of the at bat, Ryan Theriot delivered a single to center and plated Koyie Hill with the Cubs second run.
Derrek Lee reached on a two-base error by Hunter Pence to start the sixth but Aramis Ramirez lined out to Michael Bourn in right center … one of many better than average defensive plays by the Astros’ centerfielder on Monday night. Lee tagged and advanced to third but Kosuke Fukudome struck out swinging and Jake Fox lined out to right to end the inning.
The Cubs managed three more hits over the final three innings but did not put a runner into scoring position. Koyie Hill grounded into a 6-4-3 double play that erased a leadoff single by Jeff Baker in the seventh … following a single to left by Sam Fuld, Ryan Theriot grounded out to short to end the seventh inning.
Derrek Lee hit his 26th homer of the year in the eighth … a solo shot that landed in the basket in center.
Rich Harden walked Chris Coste, the Astros’ eighth place hitter, to start the third. Roy Oswalt sacrificed him to second and Michael Bourn doubled to center over Kosuke’s head to drive in the first run of the game.
Harden lost all control after Bourn’s double. Jeff Keppinger walked on four pitches and Lance Berkman walked on five pitches to load the bases … with one out.
Carlos Lee lined a single to left on a 1-1 pitch, Bourn and Keppinger scored … 3-0, Astros. Harden settled down and struck out both Miguel Tejada and Geoff Blum to end the inning.
Hunter Pence walked to start the fourth inning … Harden’s fifth free pass of the game. Koyie Hill threw out Pence trying to steal second but Harden walked Chris Coste for the second time. Roy Oswalt struck out on a fouled bunt attempt on strike three. Michael Bourn flied out to left center on a nice running catch by Kosuke Fukudome.
Jeff Keppinger, who always hits Cubs’ pitching extremely well, led off the fifth with a single to left center. After Lance Berkman popped out to left, Carlos Lee ripped Harden’s first pitch into the bleachers in left center … 5-0, Astros.
The Cubs look like they have quit with 33 games remaining on the schedule …
Randy Wells will face Brian Moehler on Tuesday night.