Game Ninety-Eight – Cubs 6 Astros 11
WP – Jeff Fulchino (4-3) LP – Angel Guzman (2-2) Save – None
The Chicago Cubs’ five-game winning streak came to an end after a long, bizarre night at Wrigley Field. The Astros scored 11 runs on 17 hits and pounded the Cubs’ pitching staff the entire night … they plated runs in all but three innings. The Astros’ offense picked up the slack for Cecil Cooper after Roy Oswalt left the game in the second inning with a left lower back strain. The Astros pen was incredibly wild in relief of Oswalt. The Cubs managed a season-high 10 walks but scattered only five hits.
The Cubs battled back from a 4-0 deficit and a 6-3 deficit but the Astros scored four runs in the last three innings, with the game winner coming off the bat of Geoff Blum in the seventh inning. Blum hit a two-out solo shot off of Angel Guzman, his third game winning RBI against the Cubs this season.
Jeff Keppinger and Miguel Tejada drove in eight of the Astros’ 11 runs. Keppinger finished 4-for-5 with three runs scored, three RBI and was a home run short of the cycle. Tejada drove in five and hit a two-run homer in the fifth off Ryan Dempster.
Ryan Dempster barely made it through five innings and to say he was rusty would be an understatement. Dempster struggled with his command, could not find a rhythm and allowed six runs, five earned, on nine hits with three strikeouts and no walks. Dempster added a mental mistake and an error in the third inning that led to the Astros’ three-run inning.
A day after tossing six innings of shutout ball, the Cubs bullpen could not get the job done on Tuesday night. Angel Guzman, Jeff Stevens, Aaron Heilman and Jeff Samardzija gave up the last five runs on five hits with two walks and only one strikeout.
The Cubs offense scored all of their runs in the fourth and fifth innings. In the fourth Wesley Wright issued five walks, the Cubs scored three runs on just one hit, a two-out pinch hit single by Reed Johnson and a sacrifice fly by Milton Bradley. Aramis Ramirez tied the game with a three-run homer in the fifth off of Jeff Fulchino.
The Cubs’ defense turned in solid plays behind the pitching staff all night. Kosuke Fukudome, Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot and Andres Blanco kept the game from becoming more than a five-run loss.
On a night Kosuke Fukudome reached on a single in the fifth that caught in Jeff Fulchino’s jersey and two Astros’ pitchers recorded their first big league hits, the Cubs dropped to six games over .500 with a 52-46 record. With the loss, coupled with the Cardinals win, Lou Piniella’s crew slipped to second place in the central a half game behind the Redbirds … The pitching staff kept the Cubs in the race all season but on Tuesday night they could not keep the Astros off the board. Ryan Dempster set a bad tone from the game’s first pitch and could not go as deep in the game as Lou Piniella was hoping.
Michael Bourn led off the game with a single to center on Dempster’s first pitch. Jeff Keppinger singled to right on a 2-2 pitch. With runners of first and third and no outs, Miguel Tejada hit what appeared to be a double to left center. Kosuke Fukudome made a great catch against the ivy to take a hit away but Bourn tagged and scored the first run of the game.
Dempster retired Carlos Lee and Geoff Blum but it was obvious Dempster did not have it on Tuesday night.
After retiring the Astros in order in the second, Dempster had his ‘one bad inning.‘ Wesley Wright, who replaced Roy Oswalt when he left in the second, led off with his first career big league hit, a single to left on a 1-1 pitch. Dempster uncorked a wild pitch with Bourn at the plate, then the Astros’ leadoff hitter singled to right. With runners on first and third, Jeff Keppinger singled to right, Wright scored … 2-0, Astros.
Miguel Tejada followed and hit a tapper back to the mound. With the play in front of him and Bourn breaking for the plate, Dempster decided to turn and throw to second. His throw ended up in center. Bourn scored easily and Keppinger ended up at third, 3-0 Astros.
Carlos Lee flied out to deep right and plated Keppinger with the Astros fourth run. Dempster retired Geoff Blum and Hunter Pence to end the inning.
After the Cubs cut the Astros’ lead to 4-3 in the fourth, Dempster gave up two in the fifth and lost the momentum.
Jeff Keppinger doubled off the wall in left center with one-out in the fifth then scored on a home run to left by Miguel Tejada. Dempster gave up singles to Carlos Lee and Geoff Blum but induced a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Hunter Pence to end the inning.
After the Cubs tied the game in the bottom of the fifth, Sean Marshall and Angel Guzman put up a goose egg in the sixth … then the wheels fell off for the pen.
Geoff Blum ripped Angel Guzman’s first pitch into the bleachers in right with two outs in the seventh. Jeff Stevens took the hill in the eighth. He issued a one-out walk to pinch-hitter Matt Kata and a two-out walk to Michael Bourn before being lifted for Aaron Heilman.
Heilman had another one of his bad outings. There does not seem to be any in between with Heilman, he is either lights out or horrible … on Tuesday he was horrible. With the Cubs down by only a single run, Heilman gave up a two-run triple to Jeff Keppinger on his first pitch. At that point the game felt like it was over …
To add insult to insult, Miguel Tejada followed with a single to left past Ramirez … Keppinger scored, 10-6 Astros. On the year, 15 of 21 inherited runners have scored against Aaron Heilman.
Jeff Samardzija gave up the Astros’ 11th run in the ninth. Hunter Pence doubled to right center with one out and scored on a bloop single to right by Chris Coste.
Wesley Wright retired the first four Cubs’ he faced before losing all command in the fourth. Kosuke Fukudome stuck out looking on a borderline pitch to start the inning. Ryan Theriot, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez walked on 13 pitches to load the bases. Milton Bradley followed with a sacrifice fly on a 1-2 pitch. Theriot scored on Bradley’s 24th RBI of the year. Alfonso Soriano followed with the Cubs’ fourth walk of the inning that reloaded the bases … with one out.
With the southpaw Wright on the mound, Piniella went to his bench and sent up Reed Johnson for Mike Fontenot. Johnson lined Wright’s first pitch into left, Lee and Ramirez scored, 4-3 Astros.
Alfonso Soriano and Reed Johnson executed a double steal with Koyie Hill at the plate. Wright ended up walking Hill, the fifth free pass of the inning. Piniella left in Ryan Dempster with the bases loaded and two outs … down by one. Dempster looked at strike three to end the inning.
Kosuke Fukudome led off the fifth with an infield single against Jeff Fulchino. The ball actually stuck in Fulchino’s jersey. Derrek Lee walked following a fly out to right center by Ryan Theriot. Aramis Ramirez stepped in and tied the game at six with his eighth homer of the year … a three-run shot to left center on a 1-2 pitch. The sixth game in a row Aramis Ramirez recorded at least one extra base hit.
Tuesday was just one of those games …
Randy Wells will face Mike Hampton on Wednesday afternoon.