The Happ-less Cubs Drop Eighth in a Row – Cubs 1, Astros 2

Game Forty-Three – Cubs 1, Astros 2
WP – J.A. Happ (4-3) LP – Travis Wood (0-1) Save – Brett Myers (11)

The Cubs’ slide continued Tuesday night in Houston. Once again, the Cubs had chances to score runs against J.A. Happ and the Astros’ pen but could not put the ball in play, much less get a hit, with runners in scoring position. Sveum’s Cubs outhit Houston 6-4 but not when it mattered … 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and six left on base.

The Cubs only run came in the fourth inning. Alfonso Soriano (1-for-4 with a home run and two strikeouts) hit his fourth home in the last eight games.

Starlin Castro was a miserable 0-for-4 and left four runners on base Tuesday night. Castro struck out swinging four times, earned a golden sombrero and will more than likely receive a day off on Wednesday. Tuesday marked the second time in his career that Castro struck out four times in a single game.

The Cubs struck out an alarming 13 times and seven of the last eight outs the Cubs’ offense made were strikeouts.

Travis Wood put together a solid outing in his second big league start of the season. Wood gave up a home run to Jose Altuve in the bottom of the first then a ground rule double to Jed Lowrie but that was it while he was on the mound. Wood struggled with his command and pitched from behind in the count for a majority of his outing but he seemingly made the right pitch when he needed it.

Travis Wood left with the game tied at one with two outs in the sixth. Wood walked the last batter he faced and turned the game over to Shawn Camp. Camp could not record the third out before allowing the Astros to take the lead.

Shawn Camp uncorked a wild pickoff attempt to first (tenth charged error by a Cubs pitcher, leads the majors) which allowed Justin Maxwell to advance into scoring position. After issuing a two-out walk to Carlos Lee, J.D. Martinez blooped a 3-1 pitch into shallow right center that plated Maxwell with the go ahead run.

Travis Wood was charged with two runs on two hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. Wood threw 97 pitches, 54 for strikes, and notched his third hit of the season … a one out double in the third. Wood was 1-for-2 at the plate.

Starlin Castro and Tony Campana turned in highlight-reel plays Tuesday night. Starlin Castro robbed Chris Johnson of a hit in the fourth with a diving stop in shallow left. Castro got to his feet quickly and threw a one-hop strike to first base.

Tony Campana ran for Reed Johnson in the eighth. Wilton Lopez’s pickoff attempt ended up down the right field line and Campana rounded second and headed for third. Campana avoided the tag by diving headlong over Downs.

The Cubs have not had a lead in a game since the fourth inning of last Wednesday’s game against the Phillies … 59 innings.

With Tuesday’s loss, the Cubs drop to a season-worst 13 games under .500 with a 15-28 record …

David DeJesus led off the game with a single to left (2-2 pitch). Reed Johnson followed with a routine grounder to third. Chris Johnson’s throw to second was off the mark. DeJesus was forced but he disrupted the play. Carlos Lee could not handle Althuve’s throw and Reed Johnson took over at first. Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano struck out swinging to end the inning. J.A. Happ threw 17 pitches in the first, 13 for strikes.

On Travis Wood’s third pitch and just 12 minutes into the game, the Cubs found themselves in a hole. Jose Altuve launched a 1-1 pitch from Wood off the facing of the wall in left center … and just like that the Astros led 1-0. Jed Lowrie followed and ripped a 1-0 pitch down the right field line for a ground rule double.

Travis Wood continued to pitch from behind after the Lowrie double but got out of the first inning without allowing any more runs.

Wood struck out Justin Maxwell swinging (3-2 pitch) and retired Chris Johnson on a groundout to second. With Jed Lowrie at third, J.D. Martinez looked at a 3-2 pitch for the third out. Wood threw 23 pitches in the first, 12 for strikes.

After Joe Mather grounded out to third to start the second, Jeff Baker pulled a 1-2 pitch into left. Darwin Barney flied out to center (2-2 pitch) for the second out. Baker then misread a ball in the dirt and tried to advance to second with Blake Lalli at the plate. Chris Snyder gunned him out to end the inning.

Travis Wood sat down the Astros in order in the second.

After two, the Cubs trailed 1-0 and Travis Wood had thrown 38 pitches, 21 for strikes.

Blake Lalli tapped back to Happ to start the third. Travis Wood then stepped in and just missed a home run. Wood ended up with a double off the top of the wall in left center. David DeJesus grounded out to second, Wood ended up at third and held when Reed Johnson walked. Starlin Castro could not check his swing on a 1-2 breaking ball and was called out to end the Cubs’ third.

Wood retired Happ (broken bat liner back up the middle) and Altuve (bunted back to Wood) to start the third. Jed Lowrie walked on four pitches. Wood fell behind Maxwell 2-1 before the Astros’ three-hole hitter tried to bunt his way on … and popped up the bunt back to Wood to end the inning. It took 55 pitches (29 for strikes) for Wood to complete three innings of work.

Alfonso Soriano led off the fourth and quickly found himself in a 0-2 hole. Soriano worked the count back to 3-2 then killed the eighth pitch of the at bat. Soriano launched his fourth homer of the season off the façade in left center and tied the game at one.

Joe Mather followed Soriano’s blast with a single to right (2-2 pitch) but Baker (struck out swinging), Barney (flied out to right) and Lalli (fouled out to third) went down in order to end the inning.

Travis Wood retired the Astros in order in the fourth … with a lot of help from Starlin Castro. Chris Johnson ripped a 1-2 pitch deep into the hole at short. Castro dove into the grass in shallow left, got to his feet quickly and threw a one-hopper to Baker to nail Johnson. The Astros’ third baseman did not agree with the call on Castro’s web gem and was thrown out of the game.

The Cubs did nothing in the fifth … and Travis Wood retired the Astros in order in the bottom of the fifth. Wood threw 85 pitches in five innings, 49 for strikes.

Starlin Castro struck out swinging for the third time in the game to start the sixth. After Soriano grounded out to second (3-2 pitch), Joe Mather walked on four pitches. Jeff Baker popped out to right for the third out.

Jose Altuve popped out to shallow right to start the Astros’ sixth. Jed Lowrie hit a sinking liner to left on a 3-2 pitch. Soriano made a diving catch for the second out. Wood then lost his command and issued a four-pitch walk to Justin Maxwell.

Dale Sveum made a double-switch and replaced Travis Wood with Shawn Camp and brought in Bryan LaHair at first for Jeff Baker.

Camp missed on his first offering to Carlos Lee then uncorked a wild pick-off throw to first. Maxwell advanced to second on Camp’s mistake … the 10th error by the Cubs’ pitching staff this season. Camp ended up missing on a 3-2 pitch to Carlos Lee and walked him with two outs. Camp continued to pitch from behind and it finally cost the Cubs a run. J.D. Martinez dropped a 3-1 pitch into shallow right center that plated Maxwell with the go ahead run.

With runners on first and third with two down, Matt Downs ripped the first pitch into deep right. David DeJesus caught the ball near the wall to end the inning.

The Cubs did nothing in the seventh against Wesley Wright.

Shawn Camp and James Russell sat Houston down 1-2-3 in the seventh.

Wesley Wright stayed in and started the eighth. Wright stuck out David DeJesus for the first out. Brad Mills went to his pen and brought in Wilton Lopez to face Reed Johnson.

Johnson reached on an infield single (Altuve, up the middle) and Sveum sent Tony Campana in to run for Johnson. Starlin Castro missed Lopez’s first pitch. Lopez then uncorked a wild throw to first. Campana got to his feet quickly, rounded second and headed for third.

Carlos Lee’s throw was up the line. Matt Downs caught the ball but Tony Campana leaped, head first over Down’s tag and past the bag. Campana made it back to third safely with the tying run … but Starlin Castro struck out swinging for the fourth time and Alfonso Soriano struck out swinging for the second time to end the inning.

James Russell gave up a leadoff double to Jose Altuve in the eighth but that was all and the Cubs went to the ninth trailing 2-1.

Brett Myers struck out Joe Mather and Adrian Cardenas then Darwin Barney ended the game by grounding out to first. Myers threw just nine pitches, eight for strikes.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Jeff Samardzija is scheduled to take the hill for Jamie Quirk in the finale against Wandy Rodriguez.

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