Nothing-for-Thirteen – Cubs 3 Astros 4

Game One Hundred Twenty-Four – Cubs 3 Astros 4
WP – Bud Norris (6-8) LP – Casey Coleman (2-5) Save – Mark Melancon (12)

There are no two ways about it, Casey Coleman was not good in his return to the big leagues but Wednesday’s loss was more about the Cubs inability to hit with runners in scoring position than Coleman’s struggles on the mound.

The Cubs lost to the Astros by a single run for the second time in 24 hours because Q’s offense was 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position and left 12 on base. The Cubs offense did nothing with all of those runners on base … nothing, not a sac fly, didn’t even ground into a double play, nothing but a big fat zero-for-thirteen. The Cubs out hit the Astros 11-10, walked three times and struck out nine times.

The Cubs three runs came off two home runs … a two-run blast by Aramis Ramirez in the third inning and a solo shot by Geovany Soto leading off the fourth inning, that broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Cubs a brief lead.

The Cubs put multiple runners on base in the second (two), fourth (two), fifth (three), eighth (two) and ninth (two) and could not push across a run.

Casey Coleman threw strikes (85 pitches, 62 for strikes) but not quality ones when he needed it the most. Coleman pitched ahead in the count for a majority of his outing … he simply could not put hitters away.

Coleman surrendered four runs on 10 hits (one for extra bases) with four strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings to a starting lineup that featured six rookies. Coleman issued only two walks, which was an improvement. Both walks came at the worst time possible. Casey walked Jimmy Paredes with two outs in the third to load the bases … then again in the fourth Coleman issued a two-out walk to J.D. Martinez that loaded the bases. Both times the next hitter (Brian Bogusevic in the third and Matt Downs in the fourth) delivered a base knock that drove in two runs.

All four runs surrendered by Casey Coleman on Wednesday came with two outs and the bases loaded.

If there were any positive vibes created in the Cubs’ clubhouse after winning the last two in Atlanta and the opener in Houston they had to be erased after the way Q’s Cubs dropped the last two games.

The Cubs finished the six-game, drama filled road trip with a disappointing 3-3 record.

With Wednesday’s loss (the 70th of the year), the Cubs are back to 16 games under .500 with a 54-70 record.

The Cubs did nothing against Bud Norris in the first and Casey Coleman dodged a bullet in the bottom of the first.

J.B. Shuck led off with a single to center. Altuve (fly out to right) and Martinez (bloop out to right) went down quietly. Matt Downs ripped a 0-2 pitch into right but Jimmy Paredes struck out looking to end the inning.

Geovany Soto reached on a one-out single to left in the second. Marlon Byrd walked but Soriano flied out to left center and Colvin fouled out to Carlos Corporan to end the inning.

Casey Coleman retired three of the four batters he faced in the second (one out single by Clint Barmes) and did not allow any runs.

After Casey Coleman and Starlin Castro were retired to start the third, Darwin Barney singled to right center. Aramis Ramirez launched Bud Norris’ first pitch over the wall in left center and gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead. Wednesday was the 11th time this season Ramirez hit the first pitch of an at bat out of the park. Ramirez tied Carlos Pena with the team lead in homers (23) on Wednesday. Pena struck out swinging to end the third.

Casey Coleman gave the two runs right back in the bottom of the third. Shuck led off with a soft single to right. Altuve hit into a 6-4 force on Coleman’s 37th pitch of the games (only seven balls). J.D. Martinez singled to left on a 1-2 pitch.

With runners on first and second with one out, Matt Downs flied out to center. Coleman fell behind Jimmy Paredes and ended up walking him to load the bases.

That guy stepped to the plate again with the bases loaded. Brian Bogusevic did not hit a slam Wednesday but did deliver a two-run double down the right field line (six RBI in two at bats for Bogusevic). With runners on second and third with two outs and the game tied at two, Clint Barmes struck out swinging to end the inning.

At the end of three, the game was tied at two and Casey Coleman had thrown 59 pitches, 44 for strikes.

Geovany Soto gave the Cubs the lead right back. Soto led off the fourth with his 13th homer of the year down the left field line. Marlon Byrd followed with a single and advanced to third on a single to right by Alfonso Soriano. Soriano took second when Bogusevic missed the cut off man.

With runners on second and third with no outs, the Cubs went down in order … Colvin (strikeout swinging), Coleman (pop out to second) and Castro (ground out to first).

The Astros took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth. Coleman did not get a call on a 1-2 pitch to Bud Norris with one out. Norris ended up with a single to center but was erased on a 6-4 fielder’s choice off the bat of J.B. Shuck.

Jose Altuve blooped a single into left and Martinez walked to load the bases.

Matt Downs ripped a 1-2 pitch into center. Shuck and Altuve scored … 4-3 Astros. After Jimmy Paredes singled to right (10th hit off Coleman), Mike Quade went to his pen for John Grabow.

Grabow retired Bogusevic on a flyout to center to end the inning.

The Cubs pen (Grabow in the fifth, Ramon Ortiz in the sixth and seventh and Jeff Samardzija in the eighth) did not allow a hit over the last 4 1/3 innings and the Astros managed only one runner (walk in the fifth by Jason Michaels off Grabow).

The Cubs had plenty of opportunities to at least tie the game.

Darwin Barney led off the fifth and reached when Norris hit him on a 1-1 pitch. Barney stole second with Ramirez at the plate. Ramirez and Pena walked to load the bases with no outs.

Geovany Soto (struck out looking), Marlon Byrd (struck out swinging) and Alfonso Soriano (pop out to center) could not deliver.

David Carpenter took over in the sixth. Colvin fouled out. Jeff Baker hit for Grabow and looked at strike three. Starlin Castro singled to center and stole second but Barney blooped out to center to end the inning.

The Cubs went down in order for the second and last time in the seventh. Brad Mills used three pitchers and each one got the job done. Carpenter retired Ramirez on a fly out to center (3-1 pitch), Sergio Escalona retired Pena on a ground out to first and Fernando Rodriguez, Jr. caught Soto looking at strike three to end the inning.

Tyler Colvin reached on a two out single to left in the eighth. Reed Johnson hit for Ramon Ortiz and dropped a bunt up the third baseline. Johnson reached and Colvin advanced to second but Castro grounded out to short to end the inning.

After Jeff Samardzija sat down Houston in the bottom of the eighth, Darwin Barney led off the ninth with a single to right. Aramis Ramirez singled to right. Barney advanced to third with no outs and Tony Campana took over at first for Ramirez.

Carlos Pena popped the first pitch to Altuve in shallow right. Campana stole second with Soto at the plate. Soto ended up hitting a grounder to short. Barney was caught in a run down and was eventually tagged out. Campana advanced to third but Byrd grounded out to second (0-1 pitch) to end the game.

It is very difficult to go 0-for-13 with RISP and leave 12 runners on base … and the Cubs made it look easy. Wonder which player will get thrown under the bus for this loss?

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

The Cubs have Thursday off and open a three-game series at Wrigley against the Cardinals on Friday. Randy Wells is scheduled to face Jaime Garcia in the opener.

Quote of the Day

"Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points." – Knute Rockne