Game Eight – Cubs 3 Reds 8
Updated – 10:06pm C.T.
On a day where the starting lineup had question marks from the beginning, Carlos Zambrano had another meltdown on the mound. Zambrano has the stuff to be an ace in the Major Leagues and one day he could even win the Cy Young Award….but he has to learn how to pitch under control first….right now the Cubs’ ace is 40-year old Greg Maddux and this is not 1992. Zambrano is young, talented and has one of the top five arms is the league….too bad he does not have the mind of Greg Maddux to go along with it. Zambrano allowed 5 runs on 4 hits, committed a balk, threw a wild pitch and committed a throwing error on an attempted pickoff play at 3rd after Eric Milton tripled (Milton was not a foot off the base) all on 103 pitches in just 6 innings. The Cubs have to get Z under control…. The game started off on a great note, Zambrano retired the first 2 batters he faced before giving up a solo home run to Adam Dunn….Dunn has 5 home runs this season, 4 against the Cubs….Zambrano fell behind and left a fastball out over the plate….the Cubs Faithful were wondering at that point how Zambrano would handle the mistake. Zambrano had a successful 2nd inning and struck out 2 and looked like he had gotten himself under control. The top of the 3rd proved otherwise.
After a leadoff walk to David Ross, Eric Milton squared to sacrifice. Zambrano fielded the ball and threw out Ross….a good play….Milton safe at first. Zambrano threw over, for whatever reason, to hold Milton at first….Derrek Lee was not covering….Milton to second. How did Zambrano not realize that the pitcher was running the bases? Zambrano then hit Ryan Freel….the wheels were coming off. With 2 on, Zambrano gave up a 3-run homer to Felipe Lopez. At that point the question became how bad would it get? Then to add insult to injury….the wild throw to score Milton from 3rd, after he tripled, in the 5th.
Scott Williamson pitched the 7th and retired the Reds in order and the possibility of a comeback was within reach with the Cubs only down 5 to 3. Will Ohman entered the game in the 8th and promptly put two on. After recording an out, Ohman walked Adam Dunn, retired Rich Aurilia and gave up a 2 out single to Scott Hatteberg. Dusty went to the pen and on the first pitch from Bobby Howry….Austin Kearns put the game out of reach with a 3-run opposite field home run to right field. Those 3 runs given up by Howry and Ohman sealed the win for the Reds. The Reds offense hit 3 more home runs on Thursday off of Cubs pitching….thankfully the Cubs will not see the Reds and their offense until June 8th in Cincinnati. The Reds have hit 14 home runs in 5 games against the Cubs this season.
Derrek Lee had three walks and the “small ball” Cubs offense could not generate enough runs against Eric Milton. Matt Murton had a good day in the clean-up spot going 2 for 4 with a home run and 2 RBI’s. All 3 of the Cubs runs came off the bat of Murton, he was not credited for the 3rd RBI because of an error given to Adam Dunn on Murton’s single in the 5th.
One wondered how the Cubs could generate runs with basically 3 rookies, a backup catcher and the backup of the backup at 3rd base (also known as Mr. Everything…Neifi was 0 for 4 with 3 strikeouts and was hitless in 8 at-bats while starting at 3rd base for the injured Aramis Ramirez….the Neifi watch is now at 15). The Cubs “small ball” offense only generated 7 hits and left 8 on base. Dusty has to find someone to protect Derrek Lee in the lineup or he will have more days like Thursday. Lee only had one official at bat on Thursday and in 8 games this season, he has 10 walks.
Before Thursday’s game, Eric Milton was 1-1 in 9 career starts against the Cubs. If the Reds pitching staff can stay consistent and healthy they will remain around the top of the Central Division for the entire season. The Reds have the offense….they have not had any pitching in years….until now.
This was the first winning home stand (4-2) for the Cubs since last July.