Game Sixty-Six – Cubs 0 Braves 2
WP – Javier Vazquez (5-6) LP – Ryan Dempster (4-5) Save – Rafael Soriano (6)
The Cubs four-game winning streak came to an end on Monday night in Atlanta due to another poor performance by the offense. The Cubs were shutout for the sixth time this season and had plenty of opportunities to pick up a win. The Cubs out hit the Braves 10-8, but they were all singles and none when it counted. The Cubs were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left 12 on base.
Ryan Dempster put together another quality start despite struggling with his command. Dempster gave up only two runs on eight hits with six strikeouts … but the four walks he issued hurt him again. Dempster pitched his way in and out of trouble in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings and kept his team in the game… with some help from his defense. Derrek Lee made a great play on a ball hit by Brian McCann to end the fifth and the Cubs turned a 6-4-3 double play to end the sixth.
Nate McClouth hurt the Cubs once again in his first game against them in a Braves’ uniform. The former Pirate drove in the game’s first run in the third and scored on Chipper Jones’ sacrifice fly in the seventh.
The Cubs lone highlight was the third of the ten singles. Derrek Lee extended his hitting streak to a career-high 19 games in the first inning.
A lineup that consisted of six starters from the Cubs minor league system could not get it done in Atlanta. The Cubs dropped to 13-19 away from Wrigley as their offensive woes from earlier in the month picked up where it left off. The Cubs must figure out a way to win games on the road and it begins with the offense. Even without Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley, the Cubs had plenty of opportunities. They got their hits, just none in the gaps or with runners in scoring position. It is going to come a time when the offense is going to have to carry the pitching staff for an extended period of time. While the Cubs made steps forward during the homestand, it felt like they got back into a lot of old habits in the first game of a long road trip.
Ryan Dempster walked Diory Hernandez to start the third inning … his second walk of the ballgame. Javier Vazquez sacrificed Hernandez to second and Nate McLouth singled to left center on a 2-2 pitch. Hernandez scored, 1-0 Braves in the third inning … the eventual winning run.
The Braves put runners on second and third with two outs in the fourth after a Jeff Francoeur double. Dempster struck out Diory Hernandez to end the inning. In the fifth, the Braves had runners on second and third again with two outs after a walk to Kelly Johnson (Dempster’s fourth of the game) and a double by Chipper Jones. Brian McCann worked the count to 3-2 before being robbed on a great defensive play at first by Derrek Lee.
If Jeff Francoeur could hit against the Cubs all season he would be living up to his potential. Francoeur reached on a single to center on a 0-2 pitch in the sixth that put runners on first and second with one out. With the Cubs down by one, Dempster induced a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Diory Hernandez to end the inning.
The Cubs, for their part, wasted opportunities in the first (runners on first and second with two outs), fifth (runner on second with one out, runner on third with two outs) and in the sixth.
Micah Hoffpauir reached on a two-out single to center in the sixth. Geovany Soto followed with a single to center and Mike Fontenot walked to load the bases. On a 2-1 pitch, Andres Blanco ended the inning with a fly out to center.
Derrek Lee flied out to right to end the seventh with runners on first and second and the Cubs put the tying runs on base in the ninth.
Andres Blanco led off the ninth with a single to left. Milton Bradley pinch-hit for Kevin Hart and struck out. Ryan Theriot struck out swinging but Kosuke Fukudome walked. With runners on first and second with two down, Jake Fox looked at strike three to end the game.
The Cubs finished the season 1-2 in Atlanta with three important games against the Braves in the beginning of July at Wrigley.
Teams cannot win every game but to see all of the opportunities the Cubs could not take advantage of was very reminiscent of most of this season.
The Cubs will resume Interleague Play on Tuesday night in Detroit. Carlos Zambrano is slated to faced Edwin Jackson and a very hot Detroit Tigers’ team.