Game Fifty-Three – Cubs 2 Pirates 3
WP – Joel Hanrahan (2-1) LP – Ted Lilly (1-5) Save – Octavio Dotel (12)
All of the good feelings about the improved play by the Cubs in recent weeks is gone. The Cubs lost for the fifth time this season in Pittsburgh and have lost five in a row in Pittsburgh for the first time in nearly 20 years (June 26, 1991 – July 16, 1992). The Cubs are the only team the Pirates has a winning record against the year … Lou Piniella’s crew is 1-7 versus the Bucs this season.
The Cubs are playing with zero intensity and look indifferent as they continue to be outplayed by a Pirates team that is 15-30 against the rest of baseball.
Before Tuesday night’s loss to the Pirates, Lou Piniella benched several of his regular players. Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Theriot and Geovany Soto all received the night off and Piniella told the media, “Patience is a virtue. Right? Too much patience is stupidity.” While Lou made his point, he continued to make questionable decisions … including leaving his starting pitcher in one batter too long.
The Cubs needed a win Tuesday night … and came up short again.
Xavier Nady put together his best performance in a Cubs’ uniform. While subbing for Derrek Lee, Nady was a perfect 4-for-4 on the night with a double and a two-run homer. Nady tallied four of the Cubs’ seven hits as the rest of the lineup continued to fail with runners on base … and in scoring position.
The Cubs finished the game 1-for-1-for-7 with RISP and left eight on base.
Ted Lilly made two mistakes Tuesday night … unfortunately both left the park. Lilly gave up a solo home run to Garrett Jones in the fourth that cut the Cubs lead to 2-1. Lilly looked like he would make the one-run lead hold up.
Ted Lilly walked Andrew McCutchen with one-out in the eighth. With Carlos Marmol warming in the pen, Lou Piniella made the slow walk but left Lilly in to face Neil Walker. Lilly threw a first pitch strike to Walker then left one out over the plate.
Neil Walker deposited Lilly’s second offer over the wall in left center. His first career big league home run gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead … and the Cubs went down in order in the ninth.
With Tuesday’s loss, the Cubs slipped to five games under .500 with a 24-29 record. What can Lou do? It’s A Way of Life … Ted Lilly did his job despite giving up the two home runs that accounted for all of the Pirates runs. Lilly allowed three runs on six hits in 7 2/3 innings. Lilly walked four and struck out six and threw 112 pitches. But once again, the Cubs manager left his starting pitcher in one batter too long.
With Carlos Marmol in the pen, Lou had to make that change, get out of the eighth and deal with the ninth. Lou said after the game he and Lilly discussed holding Andrew McCutchen close and not allow him to get into scoring position. The plan was for Lilly to retire Neil Walker then turn the game over to Carlos Marmol.
So much for the plan …
Kosuke Fukudome led off the third with a triple to right. After Starlin Castro popped out to shallow right, Xavier Nady gave the Cubs a two-run lead with his third homer of the year.
The Cubs caught a break in the bottom of the third. Jeff Karstens led off with a single to left on a 1-2 pitch from Lilly. Andrew McCutchen flied out to center and Neil Walker struck out.
Lastings Milledge then ripped a 2-2 pitch from Lilly into left center. Tyler Colvin dove but came up empty. Alfonso Soriano backed up the play and threw a strike to Starlin Castro. Castro made a perfect relay and threw out Milledge at third to end the inning … before Jeff Karstens, who had slowed down between third and home, had a chance to score.
After Garrett Jones cut the Cubs’ lead to 2-1 in the fourth, the Cubs had a chance to get the run right back.
Xavier Nady led off the fifth with a double to left center. Tyler Colvin advanced him to third with a ground out to first … a productive, fundamental out. Alfonso Soriano popped out to right. Nady held and was stranded when Mike Fontenot grounded out to second to end the inning.
The Pirates did not record another hit until the seventh inning … and it was erased on a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. After seven, Lilly had thrown only 89 pitches.
Jeff Clement popped out to Starlin Castro to start the eighth but Lilly walked McCutchen with one out … Neil Walker ended the game after a visit from Lou and on the second pitch from Ted Lilly.
Derrek Lee hit for Koyie Hill and struck out in the ninth. Marlon Byrd, who came in as a part of a double-switch in the eighth, struck out for the second out … the Kosuke Fukudome fouled out to Andy LaRoche on a 2-0 pitch to end the game.
Outside of the 4-for-4 evening by Xavier Nady, the only other bright spot(s) was the defense turned in by Starlin Castro … this just in, the kid can play.
Wednesday is a new day …
Carlos Zambrano returns to the rotation Wednesday night against Zach Duke. The Cubs have one more chance to win a game in Pittsburgh this season. Wednesday is the Cubs’ last hurrah in the Steel City in 2010.