Cubs Drop Another One to the Bucs … One Single at a Time – Cubs 4 Pirates 5

Game Three – Cubs 4 Pirates 5
WP – Jeff Karstens (1-0) LP – Carlos Marmol (0-1, BS 1) Save – Joel Hanrahan (2)

Dating back to the end of the 2009 season, the Cubs are 6-14 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Until the Cubs figure out how to beat what is supposed to be an inferior team, they will continue playing to stay out of the cellar instead of first place.

The Pirates singled their way to yet another series victory at Wrigley Field. The Bucs tallied 16 hits Sunday, all singles, and an infield single by Pedro Alvarez in the ninth off Carlos Marmol cost the Cubs a win.

The Cubs took a 4-3 lead into the ninth. Carlos Marmol could not find the strike zone and walked Garrett Jones to start the inning. Neil Walker ripped a single into right and the Pirates had the Cubs right where they wanted them.

The Pirates cleanup hitter, Lyle Overbay, dropped down a bunt and sacrificed the tying and go ahead run into scoring position. Pedro Alvarez got just enough of a 1-1 pitch to dribble the ball past the mound. Marmol dove but came up empty. Starlin Castro picked up the ball and tried to make a play at first. Castro should have never thrown the ball.

Carlos Pena dove and kept the ball from getting past him but Neil Walker rounded third and slid in ahead of Pena’s throw with the eventually winning run.

Starlin Castro, who had a huge day at the plate, reached on a one out single in the ninth. A throwing error by Ronny Cedeno put runners on first and third with one out. But Marlon Byrd swung at the first pitch and grounded into a 6-4-3 game ending double play.

The Cubs have no one to blame but themselves for beginning the season 1-2. Q’s squad had plenty of chances early on to put runs on the board … but when it came to hitting with runners on base and in scoring position, the Cubs came up empty (2-for-10 with RISP, eight left on base).

Players seemingly refuse to change their approach at the plate, especially with runners on third and less than two outs. Geovany Soto left five on base, Alfonso Soriano left three and Marlon Byrd stranded two.

Matt Garza made his Wrigley Field and Cubs debut by setting a career high in strikeouts. Garza struck out 12 but he also gave up a career-high 12 hits … all singles. Garza threw the ball well, did not walk a batter and thanks to a strong wind he did not allow a home run. Several of the Pirates’ 12 hits were bloops or on a check swing. The only ball the Pirates hit hard against Garza ended up being a long fly out to right field.

Garza threw 106 pitches (80 for strikes) in seven innings … three runs on 12 hits, no walks and 12 strikeouts.

Starlin Castro hit lead-off and recorded another three-hit game, including two triples. Castro also scored a run and played a solid game at short until the ill-advised throw in the ninth.

Alfonso Soriano hit the Cubs’ first home run of the year in the sixth. Soriano’s first dinger broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth.

1-2 and losing another series to the Pirates at Wrigley (two of the Pirates four road series wins in 2010 came at Wrigley) is not the way to start a season, but until the Cubs start beating Pittsburgh on a consistent basis again, the Pirates should not be looked down upon … or taken lightly.

Matt Garza faced the minimum in the first after allowing a leadoff single to Jose Tabata. Garza struck out Garrett Jones. With Neil Walker at the plate, Geovany Soto threw out Tabata trying to steal second. Walker grounded out to second to end the inning.

The Pirates began the single-party in the second.

Pedro Alvarez blooped a one out single into center on a 1-2 pitch. Matt Diaz fisted a pitch on his hands into right. Jason Jaramillo struck out swinging on a 2-2 pitch but Ronny Cedeno delivered the Pirates first two out RBI hit of the afternoon. Cedeno blooped a single into right. Alvarez scored … 1-0 Pirates. Ross Ohlendorf tapped back to Garza to end the inning. After a quick seven-pitch first inning, Garza threw 22 in the second, 17 for strikes.

The Cubs started swinging at everything Ohlendorf threw up in the bottom of the second … and could not string together any hits.

The Mighty Pirates tacked on a run in the third … with another two-out RBI.

Jose Tabata and Garrett Jones led off with back-to-back singles. Neil Walker then hit a grounder to Aramis Ramirez on a 3-2 pitch. Ramirez could not get the ball out of his glove and threw wide of second. Darwin Barney kept his foot on the bag but the Cubs defense got one instead of two.

With runners on first and third with one out, Garza struck out Lyle Overbay.

Garza then gave up another two-out hit, a single to center by Pedro Alvarez on a 0-1 offering. Garza hung one and Alvarez deposited it into center. Tabata scored … 2-0 Pirates. Garza struck out Matt Diaz to end the inning.

The Cubs went down in order, weakly, in the bottom of the third.

Matt Garza retired the Pirates in order, for the first time, on 10 pitches in the fourth … after four, Garza’s pitch count stood at 61, 45 for strikes.

The Cubs tied the game in the fourth … and it should have been a lot more.

Darwin Barney led off with a bloop single to right. Barney actually stopped half way between first and second and retreated to first. Marlon Byrd smacked a 1-2 pitch back up the middle and almost took Ohlendorf’s head off.

Aramis Ramirez then fought off a 0-2 pitch in on his hands and dropped a single into center. Ivan DeJesus held Barney at third with no outs.

Carlos Pena worked the count to 3-2 before launching a ball to deep right. The ball hit off the top of the wall as Garrett Jones was showered with a beer. Barney and Byrd scored … game tied at two after Pena’s double.

Geovany Soto and Alfonso Soriano put together horrible at bats. Soto popped out to left on a 0-1 pitch and Soriano popped out to Ronny Cedeno on a 1-2 pitch. Ohlendorf intentionally walked Tyler Colvin and retired Matt Garza on a ground out to first to end the inning.

Soto and Soriano took full swings instead of just trying to get the go ahead run in from third.

The Pirates took the lead right back in the fifth. Jose Tabata led off with a single to right center, his third hit of the game. Tabata broke for second on a 0-1 pitch to Garrett Jones. Jones checked his swing and punched the ball into left … right through the spot vacated by Castro.

With runners on first and third with no outs, Garza struck out Neil Walker swinging on three pitches. Lyle Overbay put together a good at bat and singled to right on a 1-2 pitch. Tabata scored … 3-2 Pirates.

Pedro Alvarez launched a 0-1 pitch into deep right. The wind held up the hardest hit ball off Garza in the first five innings. Both runners tagged and advanced but Matt Diaz grounded out to short to end the inning.

The Cubs got the run back in the home half of the fifth. Starlin Castro just missed a homer to center. Castro ripped a 2-2 pitch off the basket just to the right of center. Castro ended up at third and scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Darwin Barney.

Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena worked two out walks but Geovany Soto grounded out to short on a 1-0 pitch to end the inning.

Alfonso Soriano gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead in the sixth with his first homer of the season … and the Cubs first longball of the year.

The game remained 4-3 until the ninth thanks to a tremendous defensive play by Tyler Colvin in the eighth. The Pirates loaded the bases with one out against Kerry Wood thanks to an error by Carlos Pena.

Jose Tabata hit Wood’s first offering into right. Tyler Colvin caught the ball and threw a strike to Geovany Soto to cut Jason Jaramillo down at the plate.

Carlos Marmol could not find the strike zone in the ninth. Marmol walked Garrett Jones to start the inning then gave up a single to Neil Walker, his first hit of the game.

Lyle Overbay dropped down a bunt to third. Ramirez made another bad throw that Barney had to come off the bag and tag Overbay for the out. With runners on second and third with one out, Pedro Alvarez hit a dribbler past a diving Carlos Marmol. Starlin Castro made an ill-advised throw to first. Carlos Pena made a diving stop as the tying run scored. But Neil Walker never quit running and scored the go ahead run. Pena’s throw was high and up the third base line and Walker slid in safe.

Matt Diaz hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning … but the damage had been done.

Reed Johnson, who came in as a defensive replacement, stayed in to hit against Joel Hanrahan. Johnson struck out swinging.

Starlin Castro ripped a 1-0 pitch into left center and advanced to third on a throwing error by Ronny Cedeno. Darwin Barney hit a weak grounder to short on a 1-2 pitch that Cedeno tried to start an inning ending double play on. The ball ended up in right, Castro at third and the Cubs appeared to be in business.

Marlon Byrd stepped in and swung at the first pitch he saw … and grounded into a 6-4-3 game ending double play. Marlon Byrd is not the reason the Cubs lost the game, but he MUST take a pitch or two in that spot. Swinging at the first pitch in that situation is typically a recipe for what happened Sunday.

The entire season figures to be filled with one-run games and three into the season, the Cubs are 0-1 in one-run games … and all three games have been decided by three runs or less. The Pirates outscored the Cubs 14-12 in the three game series.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Randy Wells will face Barry Enright in the first of three against the Diamondbacks Monday afternoon.

Quote of the Day

"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life." – Arthur Ashe
  • Theboardrider

    My observation of the day…Marlon Byrd has no business batting cleanup. In leau of anyone else put Castro there. He is the best hitter on the team and has plenty of pop.

    • Theboardrider

      I was very impressed with the new guys from Tampa and with the youngsters in general. Great day for Garza and Castro and solid for Colvin, Barney and Pena…

      • Theboardrider

        One more observation…today Hendry’s offseason priorities paid off. Pena, Garza and Wood; power hitting lefty, starting pitcher, right handed set up man.

        Okay I’ll stop replying to my own post :)

        • Tony

          You might want a day that the Cubs win, to say the JH’s offseason priorities paid off.

    • Bob1

      Thats because the 3-hole is not “clean-up”.

    • Tony

      I agree he is best hitter on the team, but 3rd would be the place to put him then. But for the long term development, he should bat 2nd where he can hit for a long, long time. I would tell ARam, you are batting 3rd. Byrd would be my 1st or 8th guy, depending on if you want Barney batting lead-off or not.

      • Theboardrider

        I agree with you Tony. You make me think, but do you not see Castro someday batting 3rd? Watching him today I was thinking…”Hanley Ramirez.”

        • Tony

          The sky’s the limit for Castro, and yes I see a young Hanley. But Hanley is the BEST SS in the game and it a very lofty goal.

      • Cheryl

        Aramis says he will only bat 4th? I think someone mentioned that. If he doesn’t want to bat third, bench him. Move Marion to fifth and put Byrd in sixth. Pena should hold the 4th position for now. If Aram still won’t bat third and is benched put Baker on third.

        • Cheryl

          sorry I meant Soriano in 6th.

        • Tony

          Aramis feels more comfortable batting 4th. Q is a players manager and wants his players to feel comfortable.

          If Q were to bat ARam 3rd a few things would happen. Aram would take his turn in the 3 hole, he wouldn’t refuse and I and I am sure many others would gain some respect for Q. He has already had Soriano has low as 7th, that has to be harder than telling Aram he is batting 3rd.

  • Bryan

    All this talk about where best to place Castro. What’s the difference? Essentially everyone around him sucks.

    And I don’t know how some here are expressing being thrilled with Garza’s performance. Ok, he struck out 12, but also gave up the same number of hits to an abysmal team (over just 7 innings). He wasn’t terrible, but kinda reminded me of a Jason Marquis start where you just knew something would implode.

    • Joel

      Bryan… Not sure if u watched but about 85% of those 12 hits were bloops, check swings that found holes, broken bats, of hits that snuck through because the defender broke on a stealing runner/covering the bag… They did not get good wood on the ball and those Ks did and will come up big with runners on base, not to mention he did not walk a batter

    • Joel

      O ya, and where exactly did it ‘implode’ on garza?

  • zipdog

    Carlos Marmol could not find the strike zone and walks a guy. So, what’s new?! Gosh, he is frustrating!

  • JasonPen

    Someone needs to tell Byrd to stop swinging at the first pitch…Anything but a double play there…Take some pitches! Shoot a pop-up even scores a run! Move Castro to third and Byrd to 2nd- I’d even rather have Colvin third over Byrd, the guy is not a number 3 hitter. Period!

  • Ripsnorter1

    Man, Garza had that Strikeout pitch working today: 12 K’s! And no walks! OUTSTANDING.

    UN-fortunately he gave up 12 hits in 7 innings. If that K-pitch wasn’t working, he would have given up 7 runs.

    • cubtex

      If your mom had balls

      • Bryan

        You’re always so classy when someone expresses an opinion different than yours.

        • cubtex

          Couldn’t resist that. Sorry if I offended you. He placed that one on a silver platter.

    • Jay Seanze

      Let’s play my favorite game: the if game! If Cedeno wasn’t standing at SS when Marlon Byrd hit that ball, the Cubs would have tied the score!!

    • paulcatanese

      Rip, that was a mixed bag today by Garza.He did look good when he kept the ball down,especialy the inside and low slider,he had many bites on that. That was on the plus side. The minus side was the 12 hits. And while he looked good I reserve further judgement until he faces the Reds,The Cards and the Brewers. If he can do as well there I will be impressed. Still I wish the trade had not been made for pitching and we had kept what we had and gone after real life hitters. Until that happens the Cubs will be woefully inadequate at scoring runs. I dont care if Garza strikes out 20 a game,if we cannot score it is all a moot point. The same goes for the rest of the staff,all the pitching in the world cannot score runs.

  • Tony

    Just rewatched the end of the game (didn’t get to see it live), and even knowing it was coming, I still screamed when I say Byrd swing at that pitcher’s pitch.

    WHY do we continue to swing at pitcher’s pitches, in situations, where the pitcher is the one in trouble! Bad approaches at the plate and not realizing who has the pressure on them.

    The only way Byrd should have swung at that first pitch, was if it was in the middle of the plate, not inside off the plate.

    • paulcatanese

      Tony, the true blame for what happened falls on the manager Quade. He has had Byrd in the number three hole since what, the end of last year? Quade must know that he is not a three hitter or where was he all of last season, at another ballpark? And this stuff that Aram will not bat third,isnt this the same guy that would not move over to first base last year? I really dont know if this is the last half of last year coming out in Byrd to the first half of this year. As one poster has continualy posted on this site Spring Training Dont mean a thing. The complete turn around of Byrd since ST is amazing. I have never thought he was a number three hitter,but more of a Punch and Judy type. Quade needs to take charge here and become a manager, not a players buddy.

  • Steviej49

    Our manager scratches his head and queries –

    “”A tough one for sure,” Chicago manager Mike Quade said.

    “Carlos [Pena] did a heck of a job fielding it and nearly throwing the guy out at home. Seems like one of those days where there was a lot of stuff.”

    “one of those days where there was a lot of stuff”??

    Are you serious? “One of those days?” Try 102 years of “one of those days” you moron!

  • Aaron

    The team has a solid young core of guys that are at or near the MLB level including:
    Jay Jackson

    3B-Vitters/M. Smith
    LF-B. Jackson

    The glaring hole is 1B, and my personal opinion is that the Cubs need to make Fielder their #1 target, as I feel Pujols will either re-sign with the Cards, and if he leaves, he’ll command $30 million which even for Pujols is too much, and he’s 5 years older than Fielder.

    Outside of a FA, the Cubs have just Rebel Ridling and Justin Bour as decent 1B options. It’s true they could switch Colvin to 1B, but then you create a hole in the OF. Burgess, Spencer, etc. might develop this year, but it’s doubtful. I would absolutely love Burgess to take hold of a spot, but he’s already rumored to be starting in Daytona, which is actually a step back for him this year (NOT a good thing when you’re 22 years old…and repeating it for 2 1/2 years in a row 19 games in 2008, 131 in 2009, and 101 in 2010)

    The draft this year will go a long way to show where the Cubs are in their self-evaluation of their own system, and recognizing their weaknesses. I would sincerely hope they target corner outfielders and corner infielders in the early rounds.

    They might try to re-draft guys they didn’t sign last year like Benito Santiago Jr., and Karsten Strieby.

    I hope they go after someone like Dante Bichette Jr., a power hitting high school outfielder, but given it’s Tim Wilken, they will play it safe by drafting high floor guys instead.

    • cubtex

      I think they are targeting Fielder as well. I would be shocked if Pujols even gets to free agency. Cardinals will sign him before.

    • Wickitkevin

      You forgot that Matt szczar.

    • GaryLeeT

      I like most of what you said here except the part about Fielder. I just don’t see how someone can carry around all that weight, and not have their body start to break down on them (like his father’s did). Plus, he has suspect defensive skills. I would just say no to Fielder. Next year will be another lost year, so I would look at Colvin full time at first. Or heck, albeit a small sample size, I actually like the way Pena has looked so far this year.

  • Ripsnorter1

    The Pirates took two of three against Chicago in the three-game set. They won only four road series last year — two at Wrigley Field.

    • Neil

      Thank you for reading my recap.

  • Baron_S

    This offense is woeful, like the offense the year before and the year before that..

    Woeful disgraceful rubbish against mediocre pitching.

  • gocubs

    Byrd needs to hit 7th or 8th in this lineup.