6/22 Astros 4, Cubs 3
Before Saturday’s game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum joked that if he didn’t have to meet with the media post-game, he might have a chance to see the Blackhawks play in the Stanley Cup Final. As it turns out, the team could’ve spared him, and replayed quotes from past losses. Once again, the Cubs wasted a solid effort by one of their starting pitchers and missed scoring opportunities in a 4-3 loss to the Astros. J.D. Martinez hit a game-tying three-run homer in the sixth and Justin Maxwell scored the go-ahead run on a squeeze in the ninth inning to even the Interleague series in front of 38,870 at Wrigley Field.
“It’s a broken record,” Sveum said. “We can’t seem to get that hit to bust the game open in those situations. We get guys on and we just can’t get them in.”
With the game tied at 3 in the ninth against Kevin Gregg, Maxwell doubled to lead off and moved up on Matt Dominguez’s sacrifice. Ronny Cedeno then bunted toward first, and Maxwell sprinted home with the game-winning run. It was only the fourth time in 25 games that Gregg has given up a run.
The Cubs had a chance in the eighth. With one out, Alfonso Soriano doubled and Anthony Rizzo was intentionally walked. Soriano was then picked off at second on a close play, although it appeared that he got his hand on the base before the tag. Second base umpire David Rackley called Soriano out. The Cubs didn’t agree.
“I know it’s not an easy job they have, but when I get mad at something they call, it’s because I’m 100 percent [sure] I have the right call,” Soriano said. “I knew I was safe. It’s part of the game. I have a lot of respect for the umpires. He called me out and I got mad because I knew I was safe.”
The Cubs then loaded the bases, and Darwin Barney thought he had drawn a walk on a 3-1 pitch but instead home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi called a strike. Jose Cisnero then got Barney to fly out to center to end the inning.
“Soriano is safe at second so there’s a run, and the guy’s throwing the ball all over the place and Barney takes a 3-1 pitch and it’s eight inches inside, and instead it’s a pop up and an out,” Sveum said. “It’s a shame.”
Nate Schierholtz set a career high with his 10th home run and Luis Valbuena hit a two-run single for the Cubs, now 7-3 against American League teams this year. Travis Wood picked up his 14th quality start, most in the Major Leagues, but the lefty couldn’t snap a personal three-game losing streak.
Cubs starters now have posted quality starts in seven of the last nine games, and have won five of those nine games. The team also is 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position over the last four games, and batting .167 with RISP in the last 15.
“The whole year has been like that,” Soriano said. “We don’t get the big hit when we need it. It’s a little frustrating but we have to forget this game today and come back tomorrow and win the series tomorrow.”
– Carrie Muskat