Number Nine … Number Nine – Cubs 1, Astros 5

Game Forty-Four – Cubs 1, Astros 5
WP – Wandy Rodriguez (4-4) LP – Jeff Samardzija (4-3) Save – None

A two-out, two-run bloop triple by J.D. Martinez gave the Astros an insurmountable 2-1 lead in the fourth inning. The Astros tacked on three in the eighth off Rafael Dolis and turned a one-run game into an easy victory.

Jeff Samardzija was hung with the loss as the Cubs offense bumbled their way through another game. The Cubs only run came in the first inning, a solo homer by Reed Johnson (2-for-4 with a home run and a HBP). The Cubs put a runner on base in each inning and outhit the Astros (10-9) for the third night in a row. The Cubs did not manage a single walk and finished the game 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base. The Cubs had runners in scoring position in six straight innings (third through the eighth) and could not come up with a hit.

Starlin Castro (2-for-4 with three left on base) bounced back from his four-strikeout performance Tuesday night and both Joe Mather (2-for-4 with a double and a stolen base) and Jeff Baker (2-for-4 with a double) recorded multi-hit games … but not when it counted. Mather led off an inning three times Wednesday due to a 0-for-4 night from Alfonso Soriano. Soriano left five runners on base.

The Cubs “offense” has scored in just four of the last 47 innings.

Jeff Samardzija notched another quality start. Samardzija was lifted after six innings and allowing two runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Samardzija did not allow a hit until the third and threw 90 pitches, 58 for strikes. Samardzija even tallied one of the Cubs’ 10 hits (1-for-2)

The two runs Samardzija was charged with came on a bloop triple off the bat of J.D. Martinez (3-for-4 with a triple and three RBI) in the fourth. Martinez hit a 1-0 pitch into shallow right that David DeJesus and Darwin Barney both tried to make a play on. DeJesus caught the ball but collided with Barney and the ball popped out of his glove.

Rafael Dolis took the hill in the bottom of the eighth, only his second appearance in eight games. Dolis labored through a 32-pitch inning (15 for strikes) and allowed three runs on three hits with two walks, a HBP and two strikeouts in 2/3 of an inning.

The Cubs allowed the Astros to complete the sweep … they had plenty of chances to win the ballgame. The last time the Cubs lost nine in a row was back in 2002 (May 8 – May 18)

With Wednesday’s loss, the Cubs dropped to 14 games under .500 with a 15-29 record (1-8 versus left handed starters) …

After David DeJesus led off the game by grounding out to second base, Reed Johnson gave the Cubs their first lead in a week (59 innings). Johnson pulled a 1-0 pitch down the left field line. Johnson’s second longball of the year gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Starlin Castro followed with a single to center but the gimpy Alfonso Soriano grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Jeff Samardzija sat down the Astros in order on 13 pitches, eight for strikes, in the home half of the first.

Joe Mather ripped a 1-0 pitch right to J.D. Martinez in left to start the second. Jeff Baker reached on a single to left. Darwin Barney then struck out swinging (1-2 pitch) and Koyie Hill hit a routine grounder to third to end the inning.

The Astros did nothing in the second … 1-2-3 for Samardzija (26 pitches, 17 for strikes).

Jeff Samardzija led off the Cubs’ third with a single to right. David DeJesus bunted him to second. On a 1-2 pitch to Reed Johnson, Samardzija tried to advance to third on a ball in the dirt. The ball actually hit Johnson on his foot and the Cubs had runners on first and second with one down.

Jed Lowrie took away a hit from Starlin Castro and saved a run. Lowrie ranged into the hole, fielded the ball cleanly and threw to an alert Chris Johnson at third. Samardzija was forced for the second out and Alfonso Soriano struck out swinging to end the inning.

J.D. Martinez flied out to deep center on Samardzija’s first pitch of the third. Jason Castro ripped a 0-1 offering into the left field corner for a double … the first hit off Samardzija. Wandy Rodriguez hit a weak grounder to short that advanced Castro to third with two down. Jose Altuve put together a long at bat that resulted in a walk on the ninth pitch. Samardzija refocused and struck out Lowrie swinging (1-2 pitch) on an impressive slider to end the inning.

After Wandy Rodriguez threw out Joe Mather on a bunt attempt to start the fourth, Jeff Baker ripped a double down the right field line. Darwin Barney hit a routine grounder to short on a 2-0 pitch and Koyie Hill grounded out to the hole at short to end the inning.

The Cubs were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and left four on base after four at bats.

Samardzija retired Travis Buck on a grounder up the middle to Castro to start the fourth. Carlos Lee pulled a 2-2 pitch into left for the Astros’ second hit. Brian Bogusevic struck out swinging for the second out.

Chris Johnson pulled a 0-1 pitch into the gap in left center. Soriano somehow cut the ball off and held Johnson to a long single. Lee stopped at third with two outs. J.D. Martinez received an early birthday gift … a two-run bloop triple to right. Martinez hit a 1-0 pitch off the end of his bat. David DeJesus ran in and toward the line as Darwin Barney raced out and toward the line. DeJesus slid and caught the ball but when he collided with Barney the ball popped out of his glove and rolled into foul territory. Lee scored easily and tied the game at one. Johnson circled the bases and scored the go ahead run … and just like that the Astros led 2-1. Samardzija intentionally walked Jason Castro then retired Rodriguez on a tapper back to the mound to end the inning. Samardzija threw 69 pitches over four innings, 43 for strikes.

After Samardzija and DeJesus made two quick outs to start the Cubs’ fifth, Reed Johnson reached on a single to right. Starlin Castro pulled Rodriquez’s first pitch into left … but Alfonso Soriano swung at the first pitch and popped out to shallow right to end the inning.

Jeff Samardzija sat down Houston in order in the fifth. Samardzija threw 76 pitches in five innings, 48 for strikes.

Joe Mather led off the sixth (third time Wednesday night that Mather led off an inning) with a double to right center. Jeff Baker popped out to right, Darwin Barney hit a routine grounder to short that advanced Mather to third and Koyie Hill struck out swinging to end the inning.

The Cubs were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position after six at bats and left seven on base.

Carlos Lee led off the sixth with a single to center. Brian Bogusevic pulled a grounder toward first. Baker snagged the ball, threw to Castro to force Lee but Castro’s return throw was a little late. Chris Johnson flied out to right center for the second out. J.D. Martinez singled to right center, Bogusevic ended up at third with two down. Jason Castro grounded out to third on Samardzija’s 90th pitch of the game (58 for strikes).

Tony Campana hit for Samardzija to start the seventh … and struck out swinging. Rodriguez then hit DeJesus but Reed Johnson flied out to right and Travis Buck took an extra basehit away from Starlin Castro with a running catch in right center.

James Russell retired the Astros in order in the bottom of the seventh.

Brandon Lyon retired Soriano on a pop out to right to start the eighth. Joe Mather hit a 0-2 mistake from Lyon into left for a single. Jeff Baker stayed in the game and struck out swinging for the second out. Mather stole second on a 2-2 offering to Barney … but Barney struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch to end the inning.

Rafael Dolis took the hill in the bottom of the eighth, only his second appearance in eight games. Buck flied out to left for the first out. Carlos Lee ripped a 3-1 pitch into left center for a single. Dolis settled down and struck out Bogusevic looking for the second out. Dolis jumped ahead of Johnson 1-2 before giving up a single to left on a 3-2 offering. With runners on first and second with two outs, J.D. Martinez singled to right center and plated Lee with the Astros’ third run.

A rusty Rafael Dolis lost his command and issued back-to-back walks to Jason Castro and pinch hitter Matt Downs. The free pass to Downs forced in Johnson with the Astros fourth run. Dolis then plunked Jose Altuve on his 32nd pitch of the inning (15 for strikes) and forced in J.D. Martinez with Houston’s fifth run.

Jamie Quirk made the slow walk and replaced Dolis with Michael Bowden.

Bowden retired his former teammate, Jed Lowrie, on a fly out to right center to end the inning.

David DeJesus reached on a two-out single off Brett Myers in the ninth … but that was it. Koyie Hill (flied out to left center) and Bryan LaHair (grounded out to first) made the first two outs and Reed Johnson struck out swinging to end the game.

The Cubs have only one more trip to Houston (September 10 – September 12) before the Astros move to the AL West.

Box Score from Yahoo Sports

Thursday is an off-day … the Cubs open a three-game series in Pittsburgh on Friday night with Ryan Dempster taking on A.J. Burnett.

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