The Chicago Cubs' dream of a perfect season ended last night as they dropped their first contest, losing 3-2 to Houston in 10 innings.
The Cubs jumped out to an early lead thanks to a two-out RBI single by Derrek Lee in the third inning.
The Astros would tie it up in the fifth on a Hunter Pence home run. Then, in the sixth, Michael Bourn gave the Astros the lead with an RBI single. After six innings from starter Wandy Rodriguez and a scoreless frame from Chris Sampson, the Astros brought in former Cub LaTroy Hawkins in the eighth.
Hawkins, who in his time in Chicago had a propensity for blown saves and drew the ire of Kingdom Cub, had to deal with old demons as he promptly gave up a mammoth home run to Alfonso Soriano. Soriano launched a 1-2 pitch from Hawkins nearly out of the stadium to tie the game at 2-2.
After a fine start from Ryan Dempster (six innings and two ER), the Cubs' bullpen continued to show positive signs until the 10th. Angel Guzman pitched a perfect seventh inning and struck out two. Aaron Heilman pitched an inning and induced another double play to get out of a jam. However, in the 10th, relievers Neal Cotts and Kevin Gregg could not extend the game any longer.
Cotts gave up back-to-back hits to Ivan Rodriguez and Lance Berkman to lead off the 10th and was replaced by closer Kevin Gregg. Gregg got Jason Michaels to fly out, but Pudge advanced to third. The Cubs walked Miguel Tejada in order to load the bases for Jeff Keppinger. Gregg made a good pitch to break Keppinger’s bat, but the ball found the hole between Theriot and Aramis Ramirez and the game was over.
While the outcome of the game itself should not give the Cubs great concern, they will be concerned with the health of catcher Geovany Soto. Soto removed himself from last night’s contest with “right shoulder discomfort.” As of now, it appears to be purely precautionary, and Soto’s status is day to day. We’ll obviously be monitoring the situation and report any updates.
Starter Ryan Dempster threw the ball very well last night. He had good velocity, hitting 94 mph on the gun multiple times. He showed that good splitter we saw all last season. Dempster finished with six innings pitched, two ER, and five Ks. All in all, a fine outing by Dempster.
Neal Cotts took the loss for the Cubs, who fall to 1-1 on the year. With the win, the Astros improve to 1-1 as well. So as you can see, this one’s going to go right down to the wire…well, perhaps I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. There are still 160 games to go.