7/27 Growing pains

Andrew Cashner took the loss Tuesday and also got a quick lesson. The game was scoreless going into the Houston seventh and Cashner was ahead of Humberto Quintero 0-2. But he hit the Astros catcher with a pitch. That allowed the Astros to lift Quintero for pinch-runner Jason Bourgeois, who stole second and moved up on Brett Myers’ sacrifice.

If Cashner gets Quintero out, Myers is probably lifted for a pinch-hitter. Instead, Michael Bourn was intentionally walked and Bourgeois scampered home on a safety squeeze by Angel Sanchez. Cashner had retrieved the ball and tried to flip it to catcher Koyie Hill but it was too late.

“It was a tough inning for Cashner,” Lou Piniella said. “On the squeeze play, you just concede the run and get the out and get the heck out of the inning. Those are things you learn as a young pitcher.”

“It was a good bunt,” Cashner said. “I thought I had a chance. I went and looked at it [on video] and I see I didn’t have much of a chance and should’ve made the play at first.”

Hunter Pence followed with a RBI single to make it 2-0. Carlos Lee walked and Jeff Keppinger was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Lance Berkman, who drove a 2-0 pitch from Cashner to center for his fifth career grand slam. The Cubs bullpen was short-handed because of overwork and it was Cashner’s inning.

“That was a tough at-bat,” Cashner said of Berkman. “The first pitch was kind of close and he made a good swing. I could’ve pitched him a little different right there. I put myself in a jam. It is what it is.”

It’s part of the growing pains for the rookie right-hander, who got a pep talk from Ted Lilly. That’s one more reason why Piniella and the Cubs players would hate to lose the lefty.

“I just hope [Cashner] doesn’t worry about it too much and his focus stays the same,” Lilly said. “The game of baseball is crazy. It can be easy to doubt yourself at times. Hopefully he doesn’t. He’s got great makeup and clearly he has a special arm and a very good sound delivery to go along with it.”

— Carrie Muskat

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