The San Diego Padres are simply too strong for the Cubs.
The Chicago Cubs could not avoid the sweep by the NL West leaders Thursday afternoon. Once again, their bullpen sank and a careless defensive play in the seventh inning put them down 5-3 in the series finale.
Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs’ starter, did not have a stellar performance. However, he managed to limit the Padres to one run and four hits in six innings. Even though he walked far too many batters—giving six Padres free passes to first base—he got out of his jams, stranding runners one inning after another.
Well...except in the second, when the Padres took a 1-0 lead.
He issued back-to-back walks to Yorvit Torrealba and Will Venable. Chris Denorfia followed and loaded the bases with a single to shortstop. One out later, Jerry Hairston, Jr. hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Torrealba from third.
The Cubs scored two runs off Mat Latos in the sixth for a 2-1 lead, the first time they had a lead in this series. Lead-off man Kosuke Fukudome singled and scored on Marlon Byrd’s line-drive double to left field. Aramis Ramirez also doubled to left field to drive in Byrd.
The lead did not last long. The following inning hurt the Cubs. The Padres scored four runs with help from the careless Cubs’ defense.
Left-handed reliever Sean Marshall was brought in to try to protect the Cubs’ one-run lead. But he walked lead-off batter Miguel Tejada and gave up a single to Adrian Gonzalez. Ryan Ludwick tied the game with an RBI single that brought Tejada home.
Chase Headley followed with another single to load the bases. One out later, Venable hit a single to score Gonzalez and Ludwick.
Then with Headley on third and Venable on second, Chris Denorfia hit a ground ball to third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Headley tried to head home, but he was tagged out on a 5-2-5 rundown. Having already reached third on the play, Venable caught the Cubs off guard. Seeing no Cub covering home plate, he hustled home and scored before the late relay arrived.
Marshall (6-4), who had not given up a run in the month of August, blew the save and took the loss.
On the other hand, Padres starter Latos (13-5) tossed seven innings, giving up two runs with 10 strikeouts and one walk for the Padres, who improve their season record to a National League-best 73-47. They sit six games over the second-place San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
The Cubs got a consolation run in the bottom of ninth. Alfonso Soriano scored on Blake DeWitt’s two-out single. But Heath Bell struck out Koyie Hill, the potential game-tying run, to end the game for his 37th save of the year.
NOTE: The Cubs recalled outfielder Sam Fuld from Triple-A Iowa Thursday. He pinch-hit in the sixth inning.
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