Game Seventy-Three – Cubs 3, Astros 4
WP – Jose Cisnero (2-0) LP – Kevin Gregg (2-1) Save – Jose Veras (15)
Travis Wood was cruising right along until two outs in the sixth inning when Jose Altuve and Chris Carter reached on back-to-back singles and J.D. Martinez launched a three-run homer onto Waveland that tied the game at three. And Ronny Cedeno bunted in Justin Maxwell for the game winner in the ninth off Kevin Gregg.
The Cubs had chances to take the lead in the eighth but Alfonso Soriano was picked off second base for the second out in the inning and Darwin Barney did not get the call on a 3-1 pitch that would have forced in the go ahead run. The Cubs offense continued to struggle on Saturday and wasted numerous scoring opportunities. The Cubs went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base in a one-run loss at home. The Cubs offense has one hit in their last 17 at bats with runners in scoring position.
Luis Valbuena (1-for-5 with two RBI) delivered a two-run RBI single in the second that broke a scoreless tie and Nate Schierholtz (1-for-3 with a home run and a walk) hit a solo homer in the fifth that gave Travis Wood a three-run lead. Schierholtz set a new career high with his tenth home run of the season on Saturday.
Starlin Castro (1-for-5) collected the 600th hit of his career with a single in the third inning while Welington Castillo (2-for-3 with a walk) had another good day at the plate. Alfonso Soriano (1-for-4 with a double) and Anthony Rizzo (0-for-2 with two walks) continued to struggle with men on base. The Cubs’ four and five hitters left six men on base on Saturday.
Travis Wood picked up another quality start on Saturday after dominating the Astros for the first 5 2/3 innings of the game. Wood set down nine in a row and 12 of the 13 batters he faced before giving up the two-out single to Jose Altuve. Wood retired Justin Maxwell to end the sixth inning after hitting Carlos Corporan following Martinez’s three-run homer. Wood started the seventh but was lifted after issuing a leadoff walk to Matt Dominguez.
Travis Wood allowed three runs on five hits with a walk, a hit batsman, and five strikeouts in six-plus innings. Wood threw 89 pitches, 55 for strikes. Following the home run, Wood did not pitch with the same confidence that made him very successful over his first 14 starts.
Shawn Camp and Blake Parker kept the Astros off the board in the seventh and eighth innings. Kevin Gregg took the hill in the ninth and gave up a leadoff double to Justin Maxwell, two sacrifice bunts later, the Astros had the lead.
With Saturday’s loss, the Cubs dropped back to 13 games under .500 for the season (30-43)
Travis Wood worked around a one-out double by Jose Altuve in the first inning without allowing any runs. Wood retired Carter on a grounder to short and struck out J.D. Martinez swinging to end the inning. Wood threw 15 pitches, 10 for strikes, in the first inning.
Wood faced the minimum in the second (23 pitches, 15 for strikes) while Bud Norris did not allow a hit and faced the minimum over his first two innings of work. After Wood worked around a two-out error by Starlin Castro in the third, the Cubs took advantage of two Astros’ errors in the home half of the third.
Welington Castillo led off the third with the Cubs’ first hit, a single to center. Darwin Barney chopped a 1-1 pitch toward the hole at short. Matt Dominguez cut the ball off and threw to second. But his throw was high and Altuve could not get his foot back down before throwing to first. Castillo was called safe as Barney beat the throw to first. Travis Wood stepped in and tried to bunt both runners up ninety feet. After Norris’ second pitch to Wood, Carlos Corporan threw to second to try to pick off Castillo. The ball hit Castillo, ended up in shallow left and both runners advanced on the Astros’ second error of the inning. Wood bounced out to third for the first out.
Luis Valbuena ripped a single into center on a 1-2 pitch. Valbuena drove in Castillo and Barney with the Cubs first hit in ten at bats with runners in scoring position. Sveum called for a hit and run on a 1-1 pitch to Castro. Starlin Castro singled to center and put two on with one down for Nate Schierholtz. Norris walked Schierholtz to load the bases.
Alfonso Soriano popped Norris’ first pitch to first base and Anthony Rizzo struck out swinging to end the inning. At the end of three, the Cubs had a 2-0 lead … but it should have been a lot more (1-for-4 with RISP, three men left on base after three innings).
Travis Wood settled in after the third inning and retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced.
The Cubs wasted a chance to tack on in the fourth inning after Welington Castillo and Darwin Barney reached on back-to-back singles with one out. Travis Wood failed to bunt the runners up and fouled a 1-2 bunt attempt for the second out. Luis Valbuena lifted Norris’ first pitch to deep right to end the inning.
Nate Schierholtz added to the Cubs’ lead in the fifth with a solo homer to the party deck in right. Schierholtz’s tenth home run, a new career-high for a single season, put the Cubs up 3-0.
Travis Wood started the sixth up 3-0 and retired Norris and Barnes to start the inning. Wood had retired nine in a row and 12 of the last 13 before Altuve stepped to the plate.
Jose Altuve worked a full count before blooping a single into right field. Chris Carter followed with a single to left on a 1-0 pitch and the Astros had two on with two down. J.D. Martinez launched the first pitch he saw over the wall in left and onto Waveland Avenue … and just like that, the game was tied at three.
Travis Wood was not the same after the long home run. Wood plunked Corporan with a 3-2 pitch and Justin Maxwell smoked a 2-0 pitch to left … but right at Soriano to end the inning. Wood labored through a 24-pitch inning and it took him 85 pitches, 55 for strikes, to complete six innings.
The Cubs did nothing in the sixth and Wood took the hill to start the seventh.
With the game tied at three, Wood issued a four-pitch walk to Matt Dominguez to start the seventh. Sveum wasted no time and went to his pen for Shawn Camp. Camp got out of the seventh without allowing any runs and Blake Parker pitched around a leadoff walk and a Welington Castillo error in the eighth.
The game went to the bottom of the eighth tied at three.
Alfonso Soriano doubled to left off Jose Cisnero with one out. Anthony Rizzo looked at two out of the zone before Cisnero issued the last two intentionally. Ryan Sweeney stepped in with two on and one down. Before a 2-1 pitch to Sweeney, Cisnero wheeled around and picked off Soriano from second base. It was a very close play. Soriano thought he was safe, Sveum argued and replays were inconclusive. Sweeney singled to center on a 3-2 pitch and the Cubs had runners on first and second with two outs.
Welington Castillo worked a walk to load the bases for Darwin Barney.
Barney worked a 3-1 count then took what appeared to be ball four. The ball was inside and down but Phil Cuzzi thought it was a strike. Instead of Barney walking and forcing in the go ahead run, Barney popped out to center to end the inning.
Justin Maxwell greeted Kevin Gregg with a double to left on a 1-2 pitch to start the ninth. Matt Dominguez bunted him to second and Ronny Cedeno surprisingly gave himself up. Cedeno bunted in Maxwell with the go ahead run … 4-3 Astros. Gregg struck out pinch hitter Lucas Harrell to end the inning.
The Cubs did nothing against Jose Veras in the ninth. The Astros’ closer recorded all three outs on just six pitches.
Jeff Samardzija faces Jordan Lyles in the series finale on Sunday afternoon.