Twenty Below – Cubs 5 Marlins 7

Game Ninety-Six – Cubs 5 Marlins 7
WP – Edward Mujica (8-2) LP – Kerry Wood (1-5) Save – Leo Nunez (26)

Poor starting pitching, bad defense, not enough offense and too many walks … the reoccurring themes of the 2011 Chicago Cubs. Q’s squad found yet another way to lose a game after a bizarre top of the eighth inning.

The game was tied at four heading into the eighth following another poor outing by Randy Wells. But for all of Wells’ struggles, the Cubs offense found a way to battle back from a 3-0 deficit in the first inning and took a 4-3 lead in the second. The Marlins tied the game at four in the fourth after a misplayed ball in left by Blake DeWitt put the tying run in scoring position.

The Cubs could not put anything together against the Marlins’ pen. Jack McKeon yanked his starter, Chris Volstad, after just three innings and the overly aggressive Cubs’ offense made it easy on Florida’s relief corps. McKeon’s pen retired 14 in a row and the Cubs did not manage a single baserunner after a second inning single by Darwin Barney until there were two outs in the eighth.

The Marlins took the lead after a wild series of events against Kerry Wood in the eighth. Florida scored three runs after a wild pitch on strikeout, a double play, a hit by pitch, a walk, a botched call by the second base umpire, an infield single, a bases loaded walk and a two-out bloop single. And the Cubs offense could not mount another comeback.

While the Cubs’ offense refused to show any patience at the plate, the Marlins took exactly what the Cubs gave them. Cubs pitching issued six walks on Sunday and hit a batter … three of the walks and the hit by pitch all scored, four free runs in a two-run loss.

Randy Wells continued to struggle on Sunday afternoon. Wells gave up three runs in the first inning on two home runs and ended up surrendering four runs on eight hits with three walks (two scored) and four strikeouts in six innings. Wells threw 102 pitches, 53 for strikes, and remains a question moving forward for the Cubs. Wells has shown repeatedly this season that he is not capable of putting his team in a position to win a ball game. Wells appears to lack either the preparation or concentration to be a successful big league pitcher.

Aramis Ramirez continued to lead the offense and drove in two of the Cubs’ five runs, and scored a third, on a pair of doubles in four trips to the plate. Starlin Castro (1-for-3 with a double, a RBI, a walk and two runs scored) put together another multi-hit game and worked the Cubs only free pass of the game. Reed Johnson (1-for-3 with a double, a sac fly, a run scored and a RBI) drove in a run with a sac fly and Blake DeWitt (1-for-3 with a RBI) tied the game at three with a RBI single in the first inning.

The Cubs offense walked only one time Sunday afternoon and a total of four times in the series … the Marlins tallied six walks in the finale and 20 in the four-game series.

The Cubs finished the season series against the Marlins with a 3-3 record and dropped to 2-13 on Sundays in 2011. With Sunday’s loss, the Cubs fell to a season-low 20 games below .500 (38-58). For comparison, the Cubs owned a 41-51 record after play on July 17, 2010 and did not reach the 20-game below mark until August 17.

It was obvious in the first inning of Sunday’s game that it was going to be a long day. Randy Wells labored through a long 21-pitch inning in which he threw only nine strikes.

Emilio Bonifacio walked to start the game and scored on a homer to left off the bat of Greg Dobbs … seven minutes into the game and the Cubs were down 2-0.

Wells settled down somewhat and retired Logan Morrison on a grounder to second.

Hanley Ramirez stepped in and Wells jumped out 0-2 before Hanley worked the count back to full. Ramirez then launched Wells’ next pitch to the concourse behind the bleachers in left center. As Len Kasper called it, Sosa-territory, and the ball was estimated to travel 436 feet.

With the Cubs already down 3-0, Gaby Sanchez flied out to Marlon Byrd two steps from the vines in center. Mike Stanton grounded out to short on a 3-1 pitch to end the inning.

Wells was behind four of the six batters he faced in the first inning.

With three more runs on Sunday, the Cubs have allowed 77 first inning runs this season … the highest in the big leagues and the most allowed by Cubs pitching in any of the nine innings.

The Cubs came out swinging in the bottom of the first. Reed Johnson hit the first of three straight doubles to get the Cubs back to even. Johnson ripped a 1-0 pitch down the third base line and scored on a double to right off the bat of Starlin Castro.

Aramis Ramirez ripped Volstad’s first pitch over Morrison’s head in left. The ball hit off the wall. Ivan DeJesus put up the stop sign but Castro ran through it and scored the Cubs’ second run. There was no reason for DeJesus to hold up Castro.

Carlos Pena struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch and Byrd flied out to the vines in right. Aramis Ramirez held at second. Blake DeWitt ripped a 2-0 pitch into right. Stanton charged and threw to the plate but Sanchez cut the ball off and DeWitt was caught in a run down to end the inning. Aramis scored and tied the game at three before DeWitt was tagged out.

Randy Wells worked around an infield single off the bat of John Buck in the top of the second. Buck hit a grounder to the hole at short, Aramis made a nice play to cut the ball off and threw from his knees. The ball was wide of the bag (right field side) but Pena appeared to keep his foot on the base. Wells retired Volstad on missed bunt attempt on a 1-2 pitch and Bonifacio on a ground out to second to end the inning.

The Cubs took a slim one-run lead in the bottom of the second. Geovany Soto and Barney reached on back-to-back singles to start the inning. Wells sacrificed them to second and third with a very good but to the third base side of the bag. Reed Johnson lifted a 1-0 pitch into right center. Soto tagged and scored … 4-3 Cubs. Barney advanced to third and was stranded when Castro flied out to center on a 3-1 pitch to end the inning.

Randy Wells retired the Marlins in order in the top of the third … the only 1-2-3 inning for Wells on the afternoon.

The Cubs went down in order in the bottom of the third and after three the Cubs led 4-3.

The Marlins tied the game in the fourth after Wells issued a one-out walk to Mike Stanton. Blake DeWitt then misplayed a liner off Mike Cameron’s bat into a double. With runners on second and third with one out, the Cubs decided to pitch to John Buck.

The Marlins’ eight-hole hitter got just enough of a 3-2 pitch to pop it into center. Byrd tried to make a diving catch but ended up trapping the ball. Stanton scored … game tied at four.

With runners on first and third and one out, McKeon went to his bench for Bryan Petersen to hit for Volstad. Petersen hit Wells’ first offering to Barney who started the 4-6-3 inning ending double play.

At the end of four, Wells’ pitch count stood at 31 strikes and 30 balls (61 total).

The Cubs did nothing against Burke Badenhop in the bottom of the fourth after Logan Morrison made a tremendous catch in left center (crashed into the bricks) to take away an extra base knock from Darwin Barney.

Randy Wells wiggled in and out of trouble in the fifth. Bonifacio and Dobbs reached on infield singles to start the inning. Morrison hit a grounder to Pena and Dobbs was forced at second for the first out. Wells then walked Hanley Ramirez on five pitches to load the bases.

Gaby Sanchez hit a 2-1 pitch into shallow left. DeWitt caught the ball and held Bonifacio at third. Wells fell behind Stanton 3-1 before the Marlins’ slugger hit a tapper back to the mound. Wells juggled the ball and threw low to first but Pena dug it out to end the inning.

The Cubs went down in order in the bottom of the fifth on four pitches.

Randy Wells ended his day after working around a one-out single by John Buck in the sixth. Wells threw 102 pitches in six innings, 53 for strikes. With the way he started the game it was surprising to see Wells last as long as he did.

Burke Badenhop retired the Cubs in order for the third inning in a row … after six complete, the game remained tied at four.

James Russell retired Greg Dobbs (fly out to left center) and Logan Morrison (struck out swinging) to start the seventh. Jeff Samardzija came in to face Hanley Ramirez.

Ramirez reached on a two-out single to left on a 2-2 pitch. Hanley then broke for second on a 2-0 offering to Gaby Sanchez. The ball was called a strike but Soto’s throw was low and ended up in center. Hanley ended up at third on the Cubs 82nd charged error of the season. Sanchez grounded out to short on a 3-1 pitch to end the inning.

The Cubs went in order in the bottom of the seventh.

The Marlins took the lead in the eighth after taking advantage of two extra outs … one by the Cubs and one by the second base umpire.

Mike Stanton reached on a wild pitch on a swinging strike three to start the inning. The ball looked like it was fouled off, even the ball boy thought so as he picked up the ball. But the ball hit off the homeplate umpire’s mask. Mike Cameron tapped back to Wood, who started the 1-6-3 double play.

With two outs and no one on, Wood hit John Buck on the helmet with a breaking ball (0-1 pitch). Wood then walked pinch-hitter Wes Helms. Brett Hayes ran for Buck and was picked off from second … but the second base umpire, Lance Barrett, called him safe. The horrible call allowed the inning to continue.

Emilio Bonifacio hit a grounder to third on the next pitch from Kerry Wood. Aramis Ramirez fielded the ball, slipped, fell down and could not throw out the speedy Bonifacio. Wood walked Greg Dobbs on four pitches to force in Hayes with the go ahead run. Morrison blooped a single into left center on a 1-0 pitch. Helms and Bonifacio scored … 7-4 Marlins. Wood struck out Hanley Ramirez looking on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

The Cubs had not managed a baserunner since the second inning (20 up and 20 down, 14 in a row by the Marlins’ pen) until Starlin Castro worked the Cubs’ first walk of the game in the bottom of the eighth. Aramis Ramirez ripped a 3-1 pitch past a diving Mike Cameron into right center. Castro scored … 7-5 Marlins.

Jack McKeon went to his pen and replaced Steve Cishek with the lefty Randy Choate to face Carlos Pena … Pena grounded out to first on the first pitch to end the inning.

John Grabow was not good in the top of the ninth but did not allow any runs after walking Gaby Sanchez to start the inning and allowing Mike Stanton to reach on a single to the hole at second. Mike Cameron bunted Sanchez and Stanton to second and third … but Brett Hayes struck out swinging and Wes Helms lined out to center on a 3-1 pitch to end the inning.

Marlon Byrd led off the ninth with a single to center off Leo Nunez. Alfonso Soriano hit for Grabow and popped out to center on the first pitch. Soto then flied out to right on Nunez’s next pitch … down by two and a runner on first and the Cubs’ pathetic offense made two outs on two pitches.

Darwin Barney put together an excellent at bat but struck out swinging on the 10th pitch to end the game.

Errors, walks, poor starting pitching and not enough offense … It’s a new season-low for Quade’s Cubs.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

The Cubs open a three-game series against the Phillies on Monday night. Rodrigo Lopez against Roy Halladay in game one.

Quote of the Day

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