Game Forty-Six – Cubs 2 Astros 4
WP – Chris Sampson (3-3) LP – Ryan Dempster (5-2) Save – Jose Valverde (13)
Ryan Dempster could not repeat his previous performance from last Thursday and struggled with his command throughout most of the night. Dempster threw first pitch strikes to only 12 of the 26 batters he faced.
For the second night in a row all of the fireworks came in the 4th inning. Derrek Lee led off the 4th with a double to left and Aramis Ramirez gave the Cubs a 2-run lead with his second long ball in as many nights.
Miguel Tejada led off the bottom of the inning with a double to left. Dempster walked Lance Berkman and issued a 1-out walk to Geoff Blum to load the bases. Hunter Pence stepped in and lined a 2-0 pitch just over the wall in right. Pence’s Grand Slam gave the Astros a 4-2 lead and Chris Sampson took care of the rest.
Lou Piniella’s offense once again could not figure out Chris Sampson as he improved to 3-0 lifetime against the Cubs. Sampson allowed 2 runs on 7 hits with 4 strikeouts and just 1 walk in 6 2/3 innings. The typically patient Cubs’ offense did not make Sampson work….he threw only 83 pitches.
This game came down to two mistakes, unfortunately for the Cubs, Dempster’s had more runners on base. The one huge positive in the loss was Jose Ascanio. He was very impressive in his Cubs’ debut. He gave up 2 hits and 2 walks in 2 scoreless innings of relief. Ascanio showed good command for the most part with a solid changeup, even though he recorded just 1 strikeout….it was Lance Berkman swinging. If Ascanio can repeat his performance for Lou Piniella throughout the season, a good bullpen could have just gotten better. Ascanio threw 41 pitches in 2 innings, 24 for strikes.
Other than southpaws, the Cubs’ offense has really struggled over the years against soft-tossing right-handers. Chris Sampson is a prime example. Sampson has a huge upside, but most of the league has figured him out, while he has figured out how to attack the Cubs at the plate.
The Cubs had chances but could not come through with the big hit when they needed it. Geoff Blum made two solid plays at 3rd and Michael Bourn made a game changing catch in the 8th inning that robbed Aramis Ramirez of an extra base hit with Derrek Lee on 1st.
Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Theriot were a combined 0-for-8 while Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez recorded 5 of the Cubs’ 8 hits….5-for-8 with 2 runs scored. Mark DeRosa added 2 more hits in 4 tripes to the plate.
The difference in the game came in the bottom of the 4th. Ryan Dempster gave up a leadoff double to Miguel Tejada and then walked Lance Berkman to put runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs for Carlos Lee.
Lee flied out to Jim Edmonds in right center and Tejada tagged from 2nd. Edmonds’ throw hit Tejada in the foot, he slid in safe and Berkman advanced to 2nd on the error. Dempster dug himself a 3-0 hole to Geoff Blum before walking him to load the bases. As was the theme of the night, Dempster could not throw strikes and left a 2-0 pitch up in the strike zone to Hunter Pence….the end result was a grand slam and a Cubs’ loss. Pence’s home run was only the 4th surrendered on the year by Ryan Dempster.
The Cubs simply did not have it on Tuesday night….
Sean Gallagher will take the mound on Wednesday night in the rubber game of the series against Shawn Chacon.