Game Sixty-Five – Cubs 2 Astros 3
The Cubs inability to manufacture runs from 3rd base and less than 2 outs cost them the game on Thursday afternoon. While most will point to the Todd Walker error in the 8th that loaded the bases in front of a single by Brad Ausmus that was responsible for the tying and go ahead runs, it was the Cubs lack of fundamentals that continue to cost them ball games.
This was a game the Cubs needed, especially after the performance by Carlos Zambrano. He was sharp and left the game with a 2-1 lead in the 7th inning…it should have been more. Zambrano allowed just 1 run on 5 hits, walked 2 and struck out 5….the Cubs were swept, at home, by the Astros and find themselves back to 13 games under .500. The Cubs had plenty of opportunities but could not score those very important insurance runs. They left 6 on base and arguably wasted Juan Pierre’s best game as a Cub. Pierre reached base four times and stole four bases….a career high but scored only 1 run. The lack of patience by the Cubs continue to cost them base runners, the only walk they recorded was by Pierre in the 7th…against a rookie. The Cubs have to figure out a way to manufacture runs. Freddie Bynum led off the 7th with a triple to left, the Astros then brought their infield in and both Ronny Cedeno and Phil Nevin grounded out to Chris Burke at 2nd base. Burke made two good plays but Cedeno and Nevin MUST get the ball out of the infield and score that run, the way Barrett did in the 1st inning. After the walk and stolen base by Juan Pierre, Tony Womack grounded out to short to end the inning….and the lack of production out of the 2-hole continues to kill the Cubs chances to score….Womack left 4 on base and was 0-3 with a sacrifice bunt on the afternoon.
The only 2 runs of the afternoon came in the 1st and 2nd inning for the Cubs. Pierre scored on a sacrifice fly by Michael Barrett and Jacque Jones led off the 2nd with a solo home run. Barrett extended his hit streak to 7 games. The same story of the Cubs “trying to do too much” really cost them in the 8th.
Bobby Howry took the mound in the 8th, gave up a lead off single to Chris Burke, a single to right off the bat of Lance Berkman, who should have been called out on strikes and Howry got Jason Lane to pop out to center. Preston Wilson then grounded to Todd Walker, Walker rushed his throw to 2nd that pulled Ronny Cedeno off the bag….bases loaded only 1 out. Brad Ausmus then singled to right, Jacque Jones threw the ball into the infield dirt, again, and both Burke and Berkman scored. Howry recovered, recorded the last 2 outs but the Cubs could not mount a comeback in either the 8th or 9th. Brad Lidge recorded his second straight save with a 1-2-3 9th that included back-to-back strike outs of Jacque Jones and Freddie Bynum.
The Cubs play, or lack thereof, is frustrating everyone. After winning the last three games in Cincinnati I thought they could turn the page but to be swept at home by your division rival is inexcusable. Ron Santo said the following after the game:
“This game is not as tough as it looks. This is just unbelievable, what is going on? This ball club finds ways to lose. The offense is not clicking at all and this does not make sense. They need to do something….they need to make changes.”
As always Ron speaks the mind of the Cubs Faithful.
The Cubs face the Detroit Tigers on Friday for the first of a three game series against the American League Central Division leaders. Friday is the first of nine straight Interleague games for the Cubs.