Opportunities Galore Again for the Cubs – Cubs 2 Pirates 3

Game Twenty-Seven – Cubs 2 Pirates 3
WP – Paul Maholm (2-2) LP – Ryan Dempster (2-2) Save – Octavio Dotel (4)

The Cubs simply cannot get over .500 this season. They have tried five times and have not figured out a way to get over the hump. No matter how the Cubs try to spin it, until they pass .500 and leave the mediocre mark behind them, they are nothing but at average team at best.

Once again the Chicago Cubs could not come up with a clutch hit when they needed one. Lou Piniella’s crew left 12 on base and finished the night 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position … an infield single by Ryan Theriot that did not plate a run. The Cubs only runs came off of solo home runs by Alfonso Soriano in the fourth and Geovany Soto in the sixth.

Alfonso Soriano hit his fifth home run in four games … the first time in his career he’s hit home runs in four consecutive games.

Ryan Dempster took the 3-2 loss once again. In both of Dempster’s losses and two no-decisions the Cubs have lost the games by the same 3-2 score. Dempster was bitten by the longball for the second outing in a row. Dempster made only two mistakes … and both left the park.

Andy LaRoche gave the Bucs a 1-0 lead in the first inning with his third homer of the season. After a two-out infield single by Garrett Jones, Ryan Church lined his first home run of the season over the wall in right. Church’s two run shot gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead in the sixth.

A day after his 33rd birthday, Ryan Dempster put up another quality start after allowing three runs on eight hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in seven innings. The Cubs have lost nine games this season in which the starting pitcher posted a quality start. Dempster recorded two of the Cubs eight hits and dropped another successful sacrifice bunt … he also posted the 1,400th strikeout of his career in the second inning, a swing and a miss by Jeff Clement.

The Cubs put runners on in the final three innings but could not plate a single run off the worst pitching staff in the majors. For as good as Ryan Dempster was, the offense was equally as bad.

With the loss, the Cubs slipped a game under the mediocre mark at 13-14 …

This version of the Chicago Cubs, like so many before, struggles with the fundamentals of the game and the ability to change their approach at the plate with runners in scoring position. When “all that is needed” is contact or going with a pitch and hitting the ball just over the reach of an infielder, too many players in Lou Piniella’s lineup take full swings and aim for the fences.

Walks are good, sacrifice flies are great and playing team ball that produces wins on a consistent basis should be the goal.

Paul Maholm retired the Cubs in order only one time in six innings … but he picked up his second win of the season. The Cubs had a chance to knock him out even earlier but started swinging too early and often.

All five runs on Tuesday night were scored on home runs … three solo shots and a two-run homer by Ryan Church, the difference in the game.

Ryan Dempster retired the first two batters he faced in the sixth. On a 0-2 pitch, Garrett Jones reached on an infield single to the hole at short. Ryan Theriot was shading Jones up the middle and got to the ball but could not make the play. Jones beat the shift.

Ryan Church fell behind 0-2 before looking a ball one. Church lined Dempster’s next offering over the 21′ wall in right … 3-2 Pirates.

The Cubs put two on with one out in the seventh … and came away empty. Then went in order in the eighth. Mike Fontenot struck out swinging on ball four to start the ninth but Derrek Lee walked. Andy LaRoche robbed Marlon Byrd of a hit for the second out … Lee was forced at second. Aramis Ramirez fouled out to Ryan Doumit to end the game.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Ted Lilly will try to get back on track Wednesday night against Charlie Morton. Lou hinted at a possible lineup tinkering … stay tuned.

Quote of the Day

"Don’t ever permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure." - Joe Maddon