Game One Hundred Thirty-One – Cubs 1 Brewers 6
WP – Ben Sheets (11-4) LP – Carlos Zambrano (14-11) Save – None
No one in the Cubs organization will be happier than Carlos Zambrano to see the calendar flip to a new month on Saturday. Zambrano lost his 4th straight game and finished August 0-4 in 5 starts with a 7.06 ERA after signing his long over due contract almost two weeks ago. While Zambrano struggled once again on the mound, the Cubs’ offense gave him no run support and little room for error. Zambrano left the game in the 7th inning after giving up a bases loaded double to Ryan Braun. Zambrano allowed 2 runs before the Brewers 4-run 7th inning and left with his team down 4-1. Scott Eyre gave up a 2-run single to Geoff Jenkins in relief to close the book on Zambrano….6 runs, 5 earned, on 9 hits with 6 strikeouts and a walk in 6 1/3 innings.
The Cubs offense had plenty of opportunities against Ben Sheets. They left 4 runners in scoring position in the first 3 innings and had runners on base in every inning but the 5th. Sheets threw the ball very well in his first start off the DL and ended the Brewers 5-game losing streak while picking up his first win since June 30th at Wrigley. Alfonso Soriano recorded his first hit since returning from the DL. Aramis Ramirez drove in the lone Cubs’ run in the 3rd with a sacrifice fly to right. Jacque Jones was 2-for-3 with a walk, the only Cub to reach base more than once on the night. With the loss the Cubs dropped back to 3 games above .500 and did not create any breathing room in the division. Lou Piniella has stated not to get too high with every win and not get too low with every loss, a very true statement….there are over 30 games left in the season and anything can happen. With that said the Cubs need a good game, maybe a blowout, to give all the players a chance to breath and loosen up a little. The entire team appears to be tight and not playing their game. They are trying to force plays that are not there and with all of the “lack of power” talk, they appear to be trying to do too much at the plate. Case in point is the play with Mark DeRosa and Ryan Theriot in the 7th that opened the door for the Brewers’ big inning.
Rickie Weeks singled with 1-out to center. Zambrano quickly got ahead in the count to Gabe Gross, 1-2. Gross hit a grounder in the hole at 2nd, DeRosa made a good play but decided to throw to 2nd with his momentum heading toward 1st base. DeRosa’s throw was on line, but Theriot short armed it tying to put himself in position to turn the double play and get out of the inning. Neither Theriot nor DeRosa made sure to get one. After Theriot was charged with his 10th error of the season, Prince Fielder blooped a single to left center to load the bases (Weeks stumbled heading to 3rd or would have scored easily). Piniella came out and talked to Zambrano before he let his ace pitch to Ryan Braun. The soon-to-be-named NL Rookie of the year doubled to left on a 1-2 pitch (a ball from the bullpen got away at the same time and rolled into the infield as Braun’s was heading into left field). Piniella brought in Scott Eyre to face Geoff Jenkins. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, Jenkins singled to left to drive in the last 2 runs of the game.
The other two runs Zambrano allowed came with 2-outs in the 4th and 5th inning. Prince Fielder doubled to lead off the 4th and scored on a triple to right by Corey Hart. In the 5th, Zambrano hit Rickie Weeks for the second time in the game. Gabe Gross followed with a 2-out double to right, Weeks scored the eventual winning run.
Cliff Floyd made a highlight reel catch to start the game. Zambrano fell behind Weeks, 3-1, and he took Zambrano’s offering to the wall in right. Floyd battled the wind and made the catch as he fell backwards into the ivy….great concentration. Floyd made two other nice plays on the night that saved runs.
The Cubs stole 3 bases against Johnny Estrada and put themselves in the right position to score runs but could not come through with the clutch hit when they needed it. The turning point in the game came in the 3rd inning and for the third game in the row a failed bunt attempt cost them a big inning.
Carlos Zambrano led off the 3rd with a infield single down the 3rd base line….the ball stayed fair. Soriano followed with a single to center. With runners on 1st and 2nd in a scoreless game, Piniella asked Theriot to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Theriot ended up popping up the bunt (on the second attempt) and Fielder caught it for the first out. Derrek Lee followed with a single to center. Corey Hart does have a good arm and with Zambrano running the bases, it was the right call by Mike Quade not to send Zambrano. Aramis Ramirez followed with a sacrifice fly to right and Cliff Floyd flied out to left to end the inning.
The sign outside the Cubs’ Clubhouse on Thursday should read: “Mandatory Bunting Practice Today at 3:00“
Round two went to the Brewers and their ace, Ben Sheets….the Cubs let him off the hook.
Ted Lilly is scheduled to take the mound on Thursday night against rookie southpaw, Manny Parra.