A Fitting End to the First Half – Cubs 1 Pirates 9

Game Ninety-Two – Cubs 1 Pirates 9
WP – Paul Maholm (6-9) LP – Ramon Ortiz (0-2) Save – None

The first half ended the same way as the season began for the Chicago Cubs … with a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs lost their third series to the Pirates and are 3-6 versus the Bucs this season. Q’s squad completed the seven-game trip through Washington and Pittsburgh with a 2-5 record … and with Sunday’s loss in Pittsburgh, the Cubs finished the first half a pathetic 2-12 on Sundays.

The Cubs really did not give themselves a chance to win the game. They were overly aggressive, again, with Paul Maholm and to add insult to bad baseball, Q’s team grounded into four double plays in each of the first four innings. The Cubs did not manage their first hit until the fourth and scored a grand total of one run on four hits (1-for-6 with RISP, three left on base) against Paul Maholm and the Pirates’ pen.

The Pirates southpaw continued his dominance over the Cubs impatient offense. Maholm improved to 2-0 in three starts versus the Cubs this season after allowing one run on four hits in 7 2/3 innings. Maholm threw 101 pitches, 66 for strikes.

Paul Maholm threw the ball well but not as good as the Cubs made him look.

Aramis Ramirez (0-for-3) drove in the Cubs only run and Darwin Barney (2-for-3 with a double) recorded half of the Cubs’ hits. Reed Johnson (1-for-3 with a double and a run scored) scored the Cubs only run and made two tremendous diving catches in right field.

Ramon Ortiz started the game and lasted only four-plus innings. Ortiz was serviceable in his first outing against the Nationals but horrible on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. Ortiz had very little movement on any of his pitches and was extremely hittable. In what should have been Ortiz’s final start as a Chicago Cub, his line was six runs on seven hits with a walk and two strikeouts in four-plus innings pitched.

Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen had a field day against Ortiz. Walker has hit safely in every games he’s played against the Chicago Cubs (18 games) and finished Sunday 3-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and a run scored. The Cubs have not changed their game plan against Walker and until they do, he will continue to feast on Cubs’ pitching.

Andrew McCutchen drove in five of the Pirates nine runs with two sacrifice flies and a three-run homer (1-for-2 officially).

Chris Carpenter and James Russell did an excellent job in relief of Ortiz. Russell retired all six batters he faced on 25 pitches and finished the trip with 5 1/3 scoreless innings (five games).

John Grabow picked a bad time to have another poor outing. Grabow is one of the players the Cubs are looking to move before the July 31 trade deadline and he could not find the strike zone again. Grabow allowed three runs on two hits (both hits allowed came off left handed hitters) with two walks, a run scoring wild pitch and two strikeouts in the bottom of the eighth. Grabow threw 33 pitches, 19 for strikes.

The Cubs are 9-30 in games started by pitchers other than Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano.

With Sunday’s loss, the Cubs dropped back to 18 games under .500 (lowest mark of the season) with a 37-55 record in the first 92 games of the 2011 campaign …

Reed Johnson led off the game and was hit by Maholm’s third pitch of the game. Starlin Castro ripped a 0-1 pitch to short and the Pirates turned the routine 6-4-3 double play. Maholm then struck out Aramis Ramirez swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

The Pirates came out swinging in the first inning and jumped out to an early lead against Ramon Ortiz.

Alex Presley continued his big series (5-for-8 after the first inning single) and ripped a 3-2 pitch into right. Chase d’Arnaud lined out to Soriano in left center going away into the alley. Neil Walker extended his hitting streak against the Cubs to 18 games (hit safely in every career game against Cubs pitching) with a booming double off the top of the wall in straight away center … Walker just missed a home run.

With runners on second and third with one out, Andrew McCutchen hit a towering fly to right. Johnson caught the ball and threw to third. Presley scored on the play … 1-0 Pirates. Overbay grounded out to second to end the inning.

Paul Maholm hit Geovany Soto with one out in the second … but Marlon Byrd grounded into a 6-4-3 inning ending double play.

Ramon Ortiz had his best inning in the second. Ortiz retired the Pirates in order and threw only 12 pitches (30 in two, 20 for strikes).

For the third inning in a row, the Cubs got a free runner but it was erased on a 6-4-3 double play. Soriano reached on a throwing error by d’Arnaud to start the inning. Darwin Barney hit a 1-1 pitch to short and the Pirates turned the routine 6-4-3 double play. Ortiz struck out to end the inning.

The Pirates put the game away in the bottom of the third … with help from a leadoff walk to Paul Maholm. Ramon Ortiz fell behind Maholm 3-0, got the count back to 3-2 before throwing a low breaking ball to put the pitcher on first base.

Alex Presley hit Ortiz’s first pitch into right (6-for-9 in the series). With runners on first and second with no outs, d’Arnaud could not get the bunt down and eventually struck out. Neil Walker just missed another home run … and had to settle for another double off the top of the wall, this one to right. Maholm scored, 2-0 Pirates.

Andrew McCutchen launched a 0-1 pitch from Ortiz over the wall in center … 5-0 Pirates and the game became a laugher in the third inning.

Overbay grounded out to second base and Diaz lined out to a diving Reed Johnson (running in towards the infield) to end the inning.

Reed Johnson broke up Maholm’s no hitter with a double to left to start the fourth. Starlin Castro followed with a single to left. Johnson held at third with no outs. Aramis Ramirez hit a grounder into the hole at short. The Pirates shortstop picked the ball and threw to second but Walker dropped the ball on the exchange and could not complete the double play. Johnson scored … 5-1 Pirates.

Jeff Baker kept the Cubs double play streak alive and grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning … the Cubs fourth double play in as many innings.

Ramon Ortiz worked his final full inning in the fourth. Paul Maholm reached on a two-out single to center and advanced to third when Starlin Castro could not field a q-ball off the bat of Presley. After the error put runners on first and third with two outs, d’Arnaud lined out to third to end the inning.

Paul Maholm retired the Cubs in order for the first time in the fifth.

The Bucs tacked on and chased Ortiz from the game in the bottom of the fifth. Neil Walker led off with a triple to left center past a diving Marlon Byrd. Quade went to his pen and brought in Chris Carpenter. McCutchen hit a 0-2 pitch into center that plated Walker with the Pirates’ sixth run … and closed the book on Ramon Ortiz.

In hopefully his last game as a Chicago Cub, Ramon Ortiz allowed six runs on seven hits with a walk and two strikeouts in four-plus innings. Ortiz threw 73 pitches, 48 for strikes.

Carpenter retired Overbay (ground out to third) and Diaz (ground out to short) to end the fifth.

The Cubs managed their third hit off Maholm in the sixth (Barney, single to right center) but Reed Johnson and Starlin Castro could not drive him in from second.

James Russell sat down the Pirates in order on 10 pitches (seven for strikes) in the bottom of the sixth … and Maholm worked around a one-out error by Harrison in the seventh.

James Russell retired the Pirates in order in the bottom of the seventh and completed the road trip with 5 1/3 scoreless innings in five games.

Darwin Barney recorded the Cubs’ fourth hit of the game with one out in the eighth … a double to left. But Tony Campana and Reed Johnson could not drive him in.

John Grabow was bad again and labored through a 33-pitch (19 strikes) bottom of the eighth. Grabow had little to no command. He walked two batters and gave up three runs on two hits (single by Lyle Overbay and a two-run double by Garrett Jones) and a wild pitch.

While many did not predict the Cubs to have a winning season, most thought the Cubs would at least be competitive … no one predicted the Cubs would play as bad as they did in the first half.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

The Cubs season will resume Thursday night at Wrigley Field. Matt Garza is expected to start the opener of the three game series against the Marlins.

Quote of the Day

"When you play, play hard; when you work, don’t play at all." – Theodore Roosevelt