Game One Hundred Twenty-Nine – Cubs 4 Braves 5
WP – Mike Minor (4-2) LP – Casey Coleman (2-6) Save – Craig Kimbrel (40)
Once again the Cubs had plenty of opportunities to put runs on the old scoreboard … and once again Q’s Cubs could not hit with runners in scoring position. After going 2-for-14 with RISP on Monday night with 15 runners left on base, Q’s Cubs was a miserable 1-for-13 with RISP on Tuesday night with nine runners left on base.
In the first two games of the series, the Cubs have left 24 runners on base and are 3-for-27 with RISP … with just one hit that plated runs.
Aramis Ramirez recorded the first five-hit game of his career and for the most part Ramirez was the Cubs offense. Ramirez extended his hitting streak to 12 games and is hitting .563 (27-for-48) during his streak with three doubles, four home runs, five walks, nine runs scored and 14 RBI. Ramirez finished the game 5-for-5 with a double, a run scored and two RBI. Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano combined for seven of the Cubs’ 10 hits and collected all three of the Cubs’ RBI.
Alfonso Soriano (2-for-4 with a double and a home run) broke up the shutout with his 21st longball of the season leading off the fifth inning. Soriano hit the first homer of the year off Mike Minor.
The Cubs could not take advantage of three Braves’ errors and a night after walking a season-high seven times Q’s squad did not work a single walk on Tuesday night.
Marlon Byrd continued his season-long struggles with runners in scoring position. Byrd was 0-for-4 on Tuesday night. A day after stranding six runners on base, Byrd left four on base Tuesday. Byrd made three outs on a total of four pitches.
A two-out bases empty infield single by Dan Uggla in the fourth was the beginning of the end for Casey Coleman. Coleman had allowed only one hit over the first 3 2/3 innings. Coleman struggled with his command somewhat but kept the Braves off the board.
Aramis Ramirez tried to pick up a swinging bunt barehanded but bobbled the ball and Uggla reached on the Braves second hit. After a single by Chipper Jones and back-to-back two outs walks to Eric Hinske and Alex Gonzalez that forced in the first run of the game, Jason Heyward hit the first grand slam of his career. Mike Quade’s pitching staff has served up six grand slams this season while the Cubs offense has not hit one.
Casey Coleman had another bad outing at Wrigley Field. Coleman allowed five runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts in five innings (86 pitches, 51 for strikes).
The Cubs bullpen did a solid job and kept the Braves from tacking on after the fifth inning. John Grabow loaded the bases in the sixth but escaped without allowing any runs. Kerry Wood was nasty in the seventh. Wood retired the Braves in order with a pair of swinging strikeouts (Brian McCann and Dan Uggla). Sean Marshall was not particularly sharp but did not allow any runs thanks to defensive plays by Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Marlon Byrd.
Craig Kimbrel earned his 40th save of the season on Tuesday night. Kimbrel tied the All-Time Major League rookie mark for saves in a single season set by Neftali Feliz last season.
With Tuesday’s loss, the Cubs dropped back to 17 games under .500 with a 56-73 record … Tuesday night’s game began on a positive note for Casey Coleman. The young right-hander retired the Braves in order on just eight pitches (five for strikes).
Starlin Castro led off the bottom of the first with a single to right center. After Reed Johnson struck out swinging, Aramis Ramirez extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single to center. Castro held at second on the play.
Jeff Baker flied out to left center, Castro tagged and advanced to third but Carlos Pena struck out swinging. Two more runners left on base … 17 left on in 10 innings against Braves pitching.
Casey Coleman worked around a two out double by Eric Hinske in the top of the second. Alex Gonzalez popped out to shallow center on a 3-1 pitch to end the inning. Coleman struggled with his command in the second and it took 24 pitches (12 for strikes) to record three outs.
The Cubs did nothing against Mike Minor in the bottom of the second.
Coleman stayed on track in the third and sat down the Braves in order on six pitches, five for strikes.
Mike Minor retired the Cubs in order in the third.
Casey Coleman struck out Martin Prado looking to start the fourth and retired Brian McCann on a lineout to right (first pitch) for the second out of the inning.
Dan Uggla swung at a 2-1 offering from Coleman and tapped it toward third (swinging bunt). Aramis Ramirez tried to barehand the ball and throw to first but Ramirez bobbled the ball … and opened the floodgates.
Chipper Jones ripped Casey’s first pitch into right. Uggla ended up at third with two outs. Coleman issued a four-pitch walk to Eric Hinske to load the bases. Coleman could not find the strike zone and walked Alex Gonzalez to force in Uggla with the game’s first run.
Jason Heyward stepped in and Coleman got ahead of him 1-2. Heyward just got enough of Coleman’s next pitch to deposit the ball into the basket in left center. Heyward’s first career grand slam gave the Braves a 5-0 lead. Minor looked at strike three to end the inning.
The Braves scored five runs on three hits and two walks … all five runs after two were out and the bases were empty. Coleman tossed 29 pitches in the fourth inning (66 total, 38 for strikes).
Aramis Ramirez led off the bottom of the fourth with a single to left. Jeff Baker hit a weak grounder to short that Gonzalez got to and tossed to second. Ramirez was forced but Uggla’s throw got past Hinske and Baker ended up a second on the error. Pena grounded out to Uggla in short right and Byrd popped out to second on the first pitch to end the inning.
Michael Bourn led off the fifth with a bloop single to center on a 0-2 pitch. Bourn stole second on Coleman’s first pitch to Martin Prado. Prado tapped back to Coleman, Casey looked Bourn back to second and threw out Prado at first.
Brian McCann lined out to first on a 3-2 pitch and Uggla looked at strike three to end the inning.
Alfonso Soriano led off the fifth with his 21st homer of the year. Soriano’s solo shot put the Cubs on the board with their first run of the series (13 innings).
Mike Minor hit Soto on the foot on a 0-1 pitch. Darwin Barney hit for Coleman and singled to center to put two on with no outs for Starlin Castro.
Castro flied out to deep right, both Soto and Barney tagged and advanced ninety feet. Reed Johnson tried to check his swing on a 1-2 pitch but was called out.
Aramis Ramirez ripped a 0-1 pitch down the left field line. Soto and Barney scored on Ramirez’s third hit of the game, a two-out, two-run double.
Jeff Baker hit what appeared to be a routine grounder to short. Gonzalez fielded the ball but threw low to first. Hinske could not scoop, then lost the ball. Ramirez scored … 5-4 Braves. Carlos Pena flied out to Bourn in deep center to end the inning.
The Braves loaded the bases again in the sixth but came away empty against John Grabow.
Chipper Jones led off the inning with a single to left (first pitch) Grabow struck out Hinske and Gonzalez but gave up a single to left to Heyward. Julio Lugo hit for Mike Minor and walked to load the bases. Bourn grounded out to second on a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.
Alfonso Soriano reached on a hustle double with one out in the bottom of the sixth … Soriano hustled out of the box and slid in headfirst safe with a double. Soto flied out to left and Barney struck out swinging to end the inning.
Kerry Wood retired the Braves in order in the seventh … with two strikeouts (McCann and Uggla, both swinging).
Cristhian Martinez started the bottom of the seventh for the Braves. Reed Johnson singled to left center with one out and advanced to third on a single to right center by Aramis Ramirez. Quade sent up Blake DeWitt to hit for Grabow and Fredi Gonzalez countered with left George Sherrill.
Sherrill hit DeWitt on the first pitch to load the bases with one out.
Carlos Pena struck out swinging on a 2-2 pitch. Gonzalez went back to his pen and brought in Arodys Vizcaino to face Marlon Byrd.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Byrd swung at the first pitch and grounded out to second to end the inning.
Sean Marshall gave up a leadoff single to Chipper Jones in the eighth. Hinske hit a grounder up the middle that Barney fielded, bobbled but was able to pick up and toss to Castro to force Jones. Alex Gonzalez hit a ball up the middle that Castro made a diving stop on, tossed to Barney and the young middle infielders started the 6-4-3 inning ending double play.
The Cubs did nothing against Arodys Vizcaino in the bottom of the eighth.
Jason Heyward led off the ninth with his third hit of the game, a single to center off Sean Marshall. Brooks Conrad hit for Vizcaino and struck out. Bourn grounded out to Barney, Heyward was forced for the second out. Bourn stole second but was stranded when Marlon Byrd made a tremendous diving catch on a ball ripped into left center. Byrd took an extra base hit and possibly more away from Martin Prado.
Craig Kimbrel retired Castro (struck out swinging) and Johnson (ground out to third) rather quickly to start the ninth. Aramis Ramirez recorded his fifth hit of the game, a bloop single to right. Ramirez advanced to second when Heyward bobbled the ball. Tyler Colvin hit for Marshall and was incredibly overmatched. Kimbrel struck out Colvin swinging on three pitches to end the game.
Another game the Cubs had plenty of opportunities … and another game the Cubs refused to change their approach at the plate.
Randy Wells will face Derek Lowe in game three on Wednesday night.