Game Seventy-Nine – Cubs 2 Reds 3 – 10 innings
WP – Jordan Smith (1-0) LP – Bobby Howry (1-2) Save – Francisco Cordero (22)
The Cubs blues in series openers continued Thursday afternoon as they dropped their 11th straight first game of a set. It was the same old story for the Cubs as the reoccurring theme of lack of runs continued. The Cubs have scored only six runs in the first four games of this homestand, and are 14th in the league in scoring.
The first place Cincinnati Reds came to town Thursday for the first of four at Wrigley. The Cubs made Travis Wood, a left-hander who was making his big league debut, look like Cy Young. The offense sputtered against a guy they were seeing for the first time for the second straight day … after Brad Lincoln recorded his first career victory against the Cubs on Wednesday afternoon.
Watching the Cubs offense is like watching the same movie over and over again. Even the media seemed to be at a loss for words after Thursday’s defeat. “It’s been a reoccurring theme,” Lou said (of the lack of runs) during his short chat with the media. The Cubs are now 11 games under .500 for the first time since Lou Piniella took over the ballclub. Prior to this season, they had not been more than nine below the mediocre mark. Travis Wood was brilliant through seven, and it looked like the Cubs were on their way to being shutout once again. Then, the former second round pick walked back-to-back men to start the eighth. The Cubs, down 2-0, got their first scoring chance of the day thanks to the free passes by Geovany Soto and Starlin Castro. Pinch hitter Kosuke Fukudome laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners into scoring position before Tyler Colvin came through. Colvin spanked a two-run single to tie it … his only hit of the day in five tries came at a good time. Ryan Theriot, running for Soto, and Starlin Castro scored the Cubs’ first two runs since Tuesday.
Colvin, who led off today despite the lefty on the hill, scampered to third when Mike Fontenot (pinch-hitting for Jeff Baker) lashed a single to left to keep the rally going. With one out and men at the corners, Derrek Lee hit a ground ball to third that Scott Rolen decided to fire to second, hoping to start a 5-4-3 double play. The relay to first by second baseman Brandon Phillips beat Lee by a step to retire the side and end the threat. The play cost the Cubs the go ahead run, that would have scored had Lee beat the toss to first.
Carlos Silva did not have his best stuff today, but he worked with what he had and was able to keep one of the most potent offenses in baseball at bay. The Reds pounded out 11 hits in 7 2/3 innings against Carlos, but he worked out of a lot of jams and allowed only two runs.
The Reds got to him right away, plating one in the first. Joey Votto lined a two-out single, and then Scott Rolen drove him in. Rolen, a longtime Cubs nemesis, hit a deep fly ball to center that Marlon Byrd nearly hauled in. However, Byrd was unable to hold on for a great catch, and Rolen ended up with a triple. Jonny Gomes struck out to end the inning … Rolen was the first of 13 Reds to be stranded on base.
Silva tossed 105 pitches, 74 of which were strikes, in his final start before the NL All-Star team is selected on Sunday. Thursday was his ninth straight quality start, but he’s still winless in his last five. The last time Silva posted a W was June 6.
Carlos Marmol got himself into trouble in the ninth with the game tied at two. He allowed Drew Stubbs and Laynce Nix to single before walking Brandon Phillips to load them up with one out. In typical Marmol fashion, he worked out of the dilemma with two straight strikeouts. The final out of the ninth, Joey Votto swinging on a 3-2 pitch.
After the Cubs went down in order in the bottom of the ninth the game went to extra innings.
Bobby Howry came on to start the tenth faced two men, one grounded out and the other singled. Then, new pitcher Sean Marshall surrendered a single to Jay Bruce. A fielder’s choice bouncer by Drew Stubbs plated Miguel Cairo to give Cincinnati the lead. Howry would wind up getting the loss.
Ryan Theriot grounded out in his first at bat of the day to start the bottom of the tenth. Starlin Castro (1-for-2, two walks, run scored) singled, Koyie Hill walked and the Cubs were in business once again.
Tyler Colvin had a chance to be the big hero of the day, but he bounced into a double play to end the game. On the reply, it appeared that Colvin was safe at first … but he was ruled out by first base umpire Mark Carlson.
A key run in the game was in the eighth, when Jonny Gomes delivered a two out single for an insurance run just before Silva’s departure. The tally proved to be huge to make it 2-0 before the Cubs rallied for two in the bottom of the inning.
Jeff Baker got the start at second base in the No. 2 slot in the lineup. He went 0-for-3 to drop his average to .241. The Cubs didn’t get much from the middle of their order in Derrek Lee (0-for-4), Aramis Ramirez (1-for-4) and Marlon Byrd (0-for-4). Geovany Soto got the nod behind the dish after two straight off days, but he went 0-for-2.
Lou Piniella used up his entire bench, so had Colvin been called safe at first in the tenth, Tom Gorzelanny would have been used as a pinch hitter.
The Reds got good bullpen work from Jordan Smith, who got the win, and Francisco Cordero, who notched his 22nd save of the season. Rookies James Russell and Jeff Stevens were both called upon to get out of jams, and both men got their jobs done retiring the only guy they faced.
After finishing June 10-16, the Cubs were happy to flip the calendar today, but it was more of the same Cubs who took the field to start July with a loss. They are now 2-5 against their ex-manager Dusty Baker’s club this season, and just 14-23 when they play NL Central opponents. The Cubs have played in their share of close ballgames, and they’ve lost the vast majority of those. Now they’re 16-28 in games decided by two or fewer runs and 11-19 in one run contests. The Cubs have not won the first game of a series since May 25 against the Dodgers.
The Reds stay in first place with the victory. They are now 10 1/2 games ahead of the fourth place club from Chicago’s North Side.
Ryan Dempster will pitch for the Cubs Friday afternoon, as they continue their final home series before the All-Star break. Bronson Arroyo will take the hill in the Friday 1:20 matinee. On Saturday the Cubs will reach the exact midway point in the season in game number 81.