Cubs' struggling offense gets a hand, but still can't come up with win
This is just what the struggling Cubs’ offense needed: Houston’s Woody Williams came out of the gate firing ball after ball after ball Tuesday night.
He walked leadoff man Ryan Theriot, gave up a single to Mike Fontenot, walked Derrek Lee to load the bases and walked Cliff Floyd to send home a run without getting anyone out.
This is just what the Cubs’ struggling offense didn’t need:
The next three batters - Mark DeRosa, Jacque Jones and Jason Kendall - all made outs without another run scoring.
So in the second game after Alfonso Soriano’s right quadriceps injury, a bad tone was set early, and the second-place Cubs dropped a 5-2 decision to Houston in front of a Minute Maid Park crowd of 37,561.
“(Williams) walked three and we hit a bloop single and we - what’s the word? - ‘Eked?’ ‘Scratched’ a run?” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “That’s an inning where if you put three or four on the board and take a nice lead. ... It’s hard coming by runs.”
With their fifth loss in the past six games, the Cubs fell 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in the National League Central, pending the outcome of the Brewers’ late game at Colorado. The Cubs have scored just 20 runs over those six games - and three runs on 11 hits (with a .164 team batting average) in the two games Soriano’s missed.
“I don’t know about the emotion part,” Piniella said of Soriano’s absence. “Everyone has to do their part. I don’t think anyone is being asked to carry any more of the load than what they can carry. We need contributions from our whole lineup. We’ve known that for a long while.”
The Cubs’ other run came on Matt Murton’s solo homer in the seventh, but the Astros had all five of their runs by then. It was Murton’s first homer since May 12 and the first by a Cub since Derrek Lee hit one Friday.
“That probably gets (Murton) a start in left field or somewhere (today),” Piniella said.
Going into the game, Cubs starter Sean Marshall had been 1-1 at Minute Maid Park, allowing one earned run in 14 innings. On June 7, 2006, he gave up a run on four hits in a 1-0 setback. On July 5 last year, he gave up no runs on six hits in seven innings and won a 1-0 decision over Roy Oswalt.
Marshall gave up just one run through the first five innings Tuesday, that on a solo homer by Jason Lane. But he was peppered for four hits in the sixth and left trailing 3-1. Kerry Wood relieved and allowed two inherited runners to score as the Astros went up 5-1.
Wood, making just his second appearance all season after being out with a shoulder injury, also pitched a 1-2-3 seventh.
With long reliever/spot starter Sean Gallagher having been promoted from Triple-A Iowa, it’s possible Marshall (5-6) could get bumped from a turn in the rotation. He is 1-4 with two no-decisions since shutting the White Sox out for 5 1/3 innings on June 24.
“I felt good and strong, and that’s a good sign after the way I pitched last time,” said Marshall, who lasted just 2 2/3 innings against Philadelphia on Thursday - a day after scratching his right cornea. “I tried to keep the team in the game. There were a few balls that went through (the infield) that I wish didn’t get through. That’s baseball. I’ll try to bounce back for the next start.”
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