Game Ninety-Six – Cubs 1 Astros 2
WP – Geoff Geary (2-1) LP – Bobby Howry (3-3) Save – None
Lou Piniella’s crew did not start the second half the way their manager wanted them to. The Cubs offense was overly aggressive at the plate and wasted a very good outing on the road by Ted Lilly. Lilly made only one mistake on the night; he allowed his 22nd home run of the season to Carlos Lee in the 7th inning that tied the game. The monster shot to left cleared the railroad tracks above the Crawford Boxes. The original Cub Killer has hit 3 home runs this season against Cubs’ pitching and 25 in his career. Lilly allowed just 3 hits before the 7th inning and a total of 6 on the night with 2 walks and 6 strikeouts.
The Cubs offense looked flat and they came out swinging against Brian Moehler. The soft tossing righty retired the Cubs on just 4 pitches in the 1st inning and threw a total of 87 in 7 innings. The Cubs success in the first half was based a lot on plate discipline and on Friday night they reverted back to their free-swinging ways.
The Cubs managed only 1 run, a solo home run by Jim Edmonds leading off the 5th inning and totaled only 4 hits on the night. Brian Moehler and Geoff Geary retired the last 13 batters they faced after a double by Mike Fontenot in the 5th.
The winning run came in the bottom of the 9th after Miguel Tejada led off the inning on a ground rule double to right center on a 1-2 pitch from Bobby Howry. Hunter Pence followed with a bloop single into left center and Tejada beat the throw from Jim Edmonds.
With the loss, the Cubs slipped to 7 games under .500 on the road at 20-27. The four days off for the All-Star break did not help the Cubs, especially on offense. While Kosuke Fukudome saved a run in the 2nd inning with a great catch in right center, he went 0-for-4 at the plate and is in a 9-for-58 slump. Fukudome, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez were 0-for-12 on the night and Lee made two outs on only two pitches in his first two at bats of the night. Ryan Theriot extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a double in the 3rd inning.
Ted Lilly turned in a solid outing, as mentioned, and Pat Hughes called Lilly’s performance a gem. Lilly had little to no room for error and had very good command, for most of the night….he even picked off Hunter Pence from 1st base in the 5th inning.
The Cubs received good news before Friday’s game. Alfonso Soriano took batting practice and as it stands right now he will participate in a rookie league game on Monday in Mesa and will join the Iowa Cubs in Tucson for two games while the Cubs are playing the Diamondbacks on Tuesday and Wednesday….and if everything goes as planned, Soriano will be activated on Thursday for the start of the Marlins 4-game series at Wrigley.
Friday night was one of those games a team loses during a 162-game schedule. They were flat and outplayed but they must find a way to win close games on the road consistently….and quick.
Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to face Wandy Rodriguez on Saturday night at the Juice Box.