The Cubbies let another early lead slip away Wednesday night, again thanks to one big inning. On Tuesday and Wednesday the Cubs took leads in the early innings off HRs by Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee, and each time the Astros put up 4 runs in an inning and the Cubs failed to score again. The 4-run threshold is holding firm, reach it and win, fall short and lose. It’s pretty much that simple.
Sean Gallagher came off his first major league win a little shaky, as it was the first road start of his career. He allowed 5 runs on 8 hits with with 1 walk in 4.2 innings, but most came in the deciding 3rd. Gallagher allowed 3 straight singles to start the inning, and after striking out Lance Berkman for the 2nd time in the game, gave up a big fly to Carlos “The Cub Killer” Lee, putting the Astros up for good. The Cubs only managed 2 hits the rest of the way, falling 5-3.
With Soriano rested we got our first glimpse of Fukudome in the 2-hole and Micah Hoffpauir in the outfield. The 1st inning was what all Cub fans wanted to see, Kosuke drawing a walk and scoring on the Lee homer, and Hoffpauir knocking a double, his first ML hit, and scoring on the Soto base knock. This might cause Piniella to move around the lineup, but as we all know, he doesn’t like to talk about that.
Losing 2 of 3 to a hot Houston team isn’t the end of the world, but coming off an incredible homestand and a victory in game 1 of the series, the Cubs definitely wanted to carry that momentum through the rest of the series and on to Pittsburgh on Friday. Yes, it’s the Pirates, but road games haven’t proved easy for the Cubs this year (see Washington, Cincinnati, St. Louis).
Even after dropping 2 of 3, the Cubs are still 9 games over .500 with a 1.5 game lead in the Central, and there is a lot of baseball to be played. Off day tomorrow and then off to Pittsburgh for 3 before a 7-game homestand against the Dodgers and Rockies.
Note the guy in the green polo. Great effort to make the catch right there.
Geovany Soto hit a deep drive that landed just to the right of the yellow line in Houston on Monday night, which should have been a HR, but the umps let play go on. Luckily, Michael Bourn made a half-hearted jump into the centerfield wall, and let the ball roll aimlessly into the outfield, which allowed Soto to follow Ramirez and Fukudome all the way around the bases for what will most likely be his one and only inside-the-park HR. That gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead which they never looked back from, beating the Astros 7-2.
The Cubs were able to win tonight partly due to the Soto HR, but also due to bringing home the insurance runs. Up 3-2 in the 7th, Derrek Lee drove home Ryan Theriot to make it 4-2, and in the 8th, Theriot returned the favor, driving in Mark DeRosa to make it 5-2. Those runs were critical, as the Astros put men on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out in the bottom half of the frame. If they were only down by 1, the scenario may have played out differently, as a fly ball would have tied the game. Instead, they needed 3 runs, and ended up getting none. Of course, they might not have scored any as Carlos Marmol was on the bump and set the 3-4-5 hitters, some of the hottest hitters in baseball, down in order. Aramis Ramirez destroyed a hanging curveball in the 9th to add to the insurance tally, and giving us the final score of 7-2.
Another key factor in this game that could affect the Cubs going forward in this series was Ted Lilly and the bullpen cooling off two of the hottest hitters in baseball, Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence. These two had hitting streaks of 17 and 16 games, respectively, going into Monday night’s ballgame, and ended up a combined 0-8 with 4 Ks (3 by Berkman). Cooling down those two bats can only help the Cubs going forward.
And now, it pains me to discuss it, but what a ridiculous catch by Jim Edmonds. In his earlier days, he would have had a better beat on that ball and been able to position himself for an unneccesary dive to make the catch look more dramatic. Now, he was able to get under it and make an unbelieveable catch while running up that stupid hill in centerfield. I can’t yet say that I’m glad he is a Cub, but I was for that one play.