Rapid Reaction: Astros 5, Cubs 1
HOUSTON – The Cubs’ losing streak reached nine Wednesday with a 5-1 defeat to the Houston Astros, the longest skid since a nine-gamer almost exactly 10 years ago (May 8-18, 2002).
How it happened: Jeff Samardzija pitched well and Reed Johnson gave the Cubs an early lead with a home run, but it was the same old story in yet another defeat. The Cubs couldn’t get out of their own way in this one as a hustling Darwin Barney managed only to knock the ball from the glove of a sliding David DeJesus in right field in the fourth inning. Two Astros runs scored on the play. The Cubs managed 10 hits, but none in the clutch yet again.
What it means: It wasn’t like the Cubs got bad pitching while being swept at Houston. Matt Garza did have a poor outing Monday, but Travis Wood was solid Tuesday and was backed nicely by the bullpen. Jeff Samardzija held up his end of the bargain Wednesday, although Rafael Dolis struggled. The solid starting pitching, at least, is the reversal of a recent trend, as the staff had logged a 5.68 ERA in the team’s past 12 games since May 10, second-highest in baseball.
Outside the box: The Cubs had gone 59 innings without a lead of any kind when Johnson put them on top 1-0 just two batters into Wednesday’s game. The last time they were ahead was last Wednesday when they were on top of the Phillies in the fourth inning. The Cubs have scored in just four of their past 47 innings, starting with the eighth inning Friday against the White Sox.
Off beat: Bonus points for knowing who was the last Cubs pitcher to win a game. As a matter of fact, he got the win in the past two Cubs’ victories. … Shawn Camp was the last winner when the Cubs topped the St. Louis Cardinals on May 14. A day earlier in Milwaukee he also picked up the victory. Since then, though, he is one of eight Cubs pitchers to be charged with a loss in the losing streak. Samardzija has lost two of the nine games.
Up next: After an off day Thursday, the Cubs will open a three-game series at Pittsburgh with Ryan Dempster (0-2, 2.28 ERA) taking on the Pirates’ A.J. Burnett (2-2, 4.78) in the 6:05 p.m. start from PNC Park.