Game One Hundred Twenty-Two – Cubs 3 Padres 5
WP – Mat Latos (13-5) LP – Sean Marshall (6-4, BS 2) Save – Heath Bell (37)
Have the Chicago Cubs hit rock bottom? The first place San Diego Padres completed their first four-game sweep at Wrigley Field ever on Thursday afternoon by beating the lowly Cubs 5-3. This marks the fifth time the Cubs have been swept this season.
Starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano did not have his best stuff, but he did everything he could to keep his team in the game. Big Z walked six in his third start since rejoining the rotation, but he pitched himself out of trouble all day long and allowed only one run in six innings.
Carlos was in line to be the winning pitcher when the Cubs offense rallied to snag the lead against Mat Latos in the sixth. Latos, who has an ERA of 2.33 and ended up with his 13th win of the season, looked unhittable through five innings. In fact, an Aramis Ramirez single to lead-off the second inning was the only Cub hit of the day prior to the sixth.
It was the veterans that got the job done on this rookie-filled team during the rally. Sam Fuld led-off the sixth pinch hitting for Carlos Zambrano. Fuld was getting his first big league at-bat this season after being called up to take Derrek Lee’s place on the roster. He hit a fly ball that was snagged by the left fielder before Kosuke Fukudome ripped a one out single.
Starlin Castro (0-for-4) was retired for the second out of the inning and the game started to have similar feel to Tuesday’s 1-0 loss. However, Marlon Byrd ripped his 31st double of the season to get the Cubs on the board. Then, Ramirez launched a two-bagger to left field that drove in Byrd and gave the Cubs the lead.
The lead was the Cubs first and only of this four game series and it didn’t last long.
Sean Marshall, who has been one of the most effective and underrated set-up men in baseball this season, had a rare bad outing. He was touched for four earned runs in the seventh and only got one out before his departure.
An unusual play took place as the fourth run of the inning scored. With men at second and third and one out, Justin Berg came on to pitch. Chris Denorfia hit a ground ball to third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who noticed that Chase Headley was caught between third and home. Ramirez threw the ball to catcher Koyie Hill, who chased Chase down and tagged him out a few steps off of third base. Hill did not call time out after the play, and nobody was covering the plate. Will Venable, who started out at second base and moved up to third during the rundown, broke for the plate and scored on a bizarre play to make it 5-2.
The Cubs made some noise against closer Heath Bell in the ninth as Alfonso Soriano scampered home on a run scoring single by Blake DeWitt with two outs, his second hit of the day. In the end, Koyie Hill struck out swinging and Bell nailed down his 37th save. The North Siders have now lost 19 of 24 overall, seven consecutive home games, and ten of their last 11 Wrigley Field contests.
Wrigley Field has not been a very friendly place to play for the home team this season. Lou’s crew drops to 27-38 at home with Thursday’s loss. The Cubs are now 22 games under .500 (50-72) and could end up with a worse mark than the ’06 squad that lost 96 games under Dusty Baker … The first Cubs game without Derrek Lee on the club since 2003 was not very successful. Marlon Byrd (1-for-4) hit third in the order, the spot where he figures to hit the rest of the season with the departure of the Gold Glove first baseman. Xavier Nady got the nod at first base and went 0-for-4, but Tyler Colvin did take grounders at first prior to the start of the game. Colvin has not played first base since college, so it will take some work before he can play the position well at the big league level.
Outfielder Sam Fuld was called-up from Triple-A, which may indicate that they expect Colvin to see time at first base. Micah Hoffpauir was ineligible to be promoted so soon after being sent down, but other first basemen like Bryan LaHair were still available in the minors. The Cubs will not feature a roster with only one first baseman (Nady) for long, so either Colvin will be converted or Hoffpauir will be called up within the next week … he is eligible to be recalled on Monday.
Marcos Mateo was in desperate need of a good outing out of the bullpen after several bad ones in a row, and he retired the side in order in the eighth. Andrew Cashner was another bright spot for the Cubs today, sending the Padres down in order in the top of the ninth. Both rookie righties bounced back after giving up runs yesterday.
San Diego opens up a 6.5 game lead in the West pending the outcome of the Giants/Phillies game tonight. Ex-Cub Jerry Hairston Jr. drove in the first San Diego run, which came against Zambrano in the second. Ryan Ludwick and Will Venable picked up RBI singles in the seventh against Sean Marshall.
Carlos Zambrano has now put together a string of two solid outings in a row, even with his early wildness today. He walked four men in the first two innings but got out of it with minimal damage. Z must continue to pitch well in order to keep his spot in the rotation when Carlos Silva is activated. He got a no decision today as Sean Marshall was hit with his fourth loss of the year.
The Cubs will look to end their four-game losing streak and their seven-game home skid Friday when they meet the Atlanta Braves at 1:20. Derrek Lee will be in the away dugout at Wrigley and is expected to make his Braves debut against his former team this weekend. D-Lee should get a standing ovation from the crowd at Wrigley. Ryan Dempster will pitch for the Cubs against Atlanta right-hander Jair Jurrjens.