On Tuesday, the Chicago Cubs were officially eliminated from the playoffs. On Friday, they went down without a whimper against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a lacklustre effort in front of the Wrigley faithful.
Having lost all hope of a wildcard berth just three days after missing out on the NL Central crown, the Cubbies looked like a team with nothing to play for when they were defeated 12-3 by the D-Backs behind right hander Billy Buckner.
Arizona plated three runs in the first inning, a four-spot in the third and insurance runs in the sixth and seventh to hand the Cubs their third straight loss.
Eric Byrnes launched two home runs and had five RBI and Chris Young also went deep for the D-Backs as Buckner held the Cubs to three runs on six hits—all singles—in six and one-third innings to dampen the spirits of Chicago fans even more on a wet afternoon at the friendly confines.
The win, built around 15 base hits, snapped Arizona's three-game losing streak and moved the NL West basement-dwellers to 69-91, while the Cubs dropped to 82-77.
The Cubs did show small signs of a fightback in the seventh inning when they finally knocked Buckner out of the game, but the damage had already been done.
The hosts jumped on Cubs' starter Tom Gorzelanny right from the first pitch, with Ryan Roberts lacing a triple to center field to lead off the game.
Stephen Drew dropped a 3-2 single into shallow centre field behind second base, then moved to second on Gorzelanny's error and scored from third base on Mark Reynold's sac fly.
Young's 14th home run of the season on a two-out fastball made it 3-0 and Rusty Ryal drilled a bases-loaded double to centre field to extend their lead to six.
Ryal advanced 90ft to third base on a passed ball and scored on Byrnes' infield single to widen the gap to 7-0.
Gorzelanny, who entered the game with a 7-2 record and 4.70 ERA, would not come out to pitch the fourth inning, finishing with seven runs—six earned—on seven hits and a walk over 61 pitches.
Justin Berg pitched two shutout innings of relief for the Cubs, but the D-Backs resumed their attack against Jeff Stevens and David Patton to add three more runs and effectively put the game to bed.
Byrnes launched his seventh home run to left field to lead off the sixth inning and Arizona scored their ninth and tenth runs of the game in the seventh off of Patton on two hits, a walk and a sac fly.
The Cubs never really got things going against Gorzelanny's counterpart Buckner, although they did put runs on the board on back-to-back-to-back hits against the rightie in the home half of the seventh inning.
Hill and Blanco floated a pair of soft bloop singles into centre field and pinch hitter Hoffpauir got some help from mustasched D-Backs reliever Clay Zabata who, while standing in the bullpen down the first base line, snagged Hoffpauir's one-hopper which had bounced over the bag and beyond the reach of a diving Rusty Ryal.
The Chicago native apparently had not realized the ball was still in play, instead reacting instinctively to snare the ball which was making a beeline for the bullpen catcher who had his back to the action.
Aramis Ramirez added a second Cubs run on a bases-loaded single through the hole between third and short and Jed Fox cut the deficit to 10-3 on an RBI fielder's choice.
Byrnes put an exclamation mark on his performance in the top of the ninth inning, taking Aaron Heilman deep for a two-run shot to make it 12-3.
Scott Schoeneweis pitched a perfect eighth inning for the D-Backs and Clay Zabata closed out the game with a one-two-three ninth.
Daniel Cabrera will face off against Randy Wells in the middle game of the three-game set tomorrow (1.05pm start) before Dale Davis and Ryan Dempster take the hill to close out the season on Sunday (2.20pm).
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