Game One Hundred Twenty-Eight – Cubs 1 Mets 4
WP – Nelson Figueroa (2-3) LP – Carlos Zambrano (7-6) Save – Francisco Rodriguez (28)
Lou Piniella’s crew completed a disappointing six-game stretch against the Nationals and Mets with a 3-3 record … at Wrigley Field. Carlos Zambrano and the offense did not show up on Sunday afternoon on the day their manager indicated they could make a run at the NL Wild Card. The Cubs won the series but winning two of three at this point of the season is not good enough.
Carlos Zambrano made his last start of the month, which is the good news. Zambrano has struggled for the last three years in August and the fifth month of the baseball season is the only month in which Zambrano has a losing record in his career. After his horrible performance on Sunday, Zambrano is 0-2 in three starts with a 10.13 ERA and a 2.53 WHIP (14 runs, 12 earned, on 22 hits with six walks and nine strikeouts). Zambrano gave up a season-high 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings … all 11 came after the first inning, Z retired the Mets in order to start the game.
The Cubs’ bullpen shutdown the Mets’ offense, the way Lou Piniella thought his number one pitcher would on Sunday. Tom Gorzelanny, Sean Marshall, John Grabow and Angel Guzman allowed only one hit with no walks and struck out six. The bullpen gave the offense plenty of time to mount a comeback.
The lone highlight for the Cubs came in the first inning. Milton Bradley walked with one out. After a single by Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez gave the Cubs a short lived 1-0 lead with a single to left center.
The Cubs’ offense allowed Nelson Figueroa to set a new career mark in strikeouts on Sunday. Figueroa struck out 10, walked just two and surrendered just six hits in seven-plus innings. Sunday was Nelson Figueroa’s first career win against the Chicago Cubs (1-4).
The Cubs put the leadoff runner on in the final three innings but followed with double plays in the seventh and eighth … and a fielder’s choice in the ninth.
With the wind howling in on Sunday, the Cubs simply could not manufacture any runs on a day they could not hit any home runs.
The loss pushed the Cubs ten games back of the Cardinals in the division and of this writing they are six games back of the Rockies for the NL Wild Card … chasing four teams. Last August the Cubs finished the month with an impressive 20-8 record, this August they are 11-16 after Sunday’s loss. On August 5, the Cubs entered play tied atop the division with the Cardinals nine games above .500 … on August 31 the Cubs will enter play ten games out in the NL Central and just two games above the .500 mark.
This game was decided by the fourth inning after Carlos Zambrano’s outing and the Cubs’ horrible approach at the plate.
After retiring the Mets in order in the first, Zambrano struck out Jeff Francoeur to start the second … and it appeared it was going to be a good day for Big Z. Then it all went downhill.
Jeremy Reed singled to center. Fernando Tatis followed with another single to center. Brian Schneider struck out swinging (Z’s third and final strikeout) then Anderson Hernandez grounded out to second … and Z escaped any damage.
Angel Pagan started the Mets’ two-run third inning with a one out single to right. Luis Castillo singled to center to put runners on first and second with one-out. Carlos Zambrano tried to pick off Pagan at second, threw the ball into center and for some reason Kosuke Fukudome tried to throw out Pagan at third. The play was not close and Castillo advanced to second on the throw.
Daniel Murphy blooped a single into center … the Mets third straight hit. Fukudome almost threw out the speedy Pagan at the plate, but Pagan scored and tied the game at one.
Jeff Francoeur singled to left, the Mets’ fourth straight hit … and game winner. The Cubs continue to throw the Mets’ free-swinging right fielder fastballs … when the rest of the league throws him nothing but breaking balls. Castillo scored easily, 2-1 Mets. Jeremy Reed lined out to second and Murphy was doubled off second. For a brief moment it appeared the Mets ran themselves out of another win.
Carlos Zambrano gave up five straight hits after retiring Fernando Tatis to start the fourth. Brian Schneider, who came into the series hitting below the Mendoza Line, singled to center with one out. Anderson Hernandez followed with a triple to left, the ball was near the wall, hit and rolled to the track in left center. Schneider scored, 3-1 Mets.
Nelson Figueroa followed with a single to center on a 0-1 pitch from Zambrano. Hernandez scored the final run of the game … but the Mets loaded bases after a single by Angel Pagan and a bloop single on a 3-1 pitch by Luis Castillo. With the bases loaded, Lou Piniella removed Carlos Zambrano with one-out in the fourth inning.
Tom Gorzelanny retired Daniel Murphy and Jeff Francoeur to end the inning.
A day after putting 11 runs on the board, the Cubs’ offense managed just one run off of Nelson Figueroa … that says it all.
Rich Harden, if he is not traded on Monday, will start on Monday night opposite of Roy Oswalt in the first of three against the Astros.