Cubs' offense awakens too late in loss

Offense awakens too late in loss

CHICAGO -- The problem wasn't the cold, or Cesar Izturis' three errors, or Alfonso Soriano's inexperience in center field, or Jason Marquis' walks. The Cubs fell behind early, and it's tough to catch up.

Luke Scott drove in three runs Tuesday, including a pair in the first inning, to help the Houston Astros beat the Cubs, 4-2.

"The guys we have, I feel when we go out there, it's going to be a tough day for the other guy," Cubs outfielder Cliff Floyd said. "I really believe this team is set up to get you right away, and we have to start putting pressure on the opposing guy and jump on them like they're jumping on us.

"It's a long season, thank God, and we have to try to settle down and put some runs on the board early," Floyd said. "More times than not, you're not going to win trying to come back in the ninth inning."

The Cubs did rally in the ninth against new Astros closer Dan Wheeler, scoring on RBI singles by Derrek Lee and Mark DeRosa. They'd totaled three hits over eight innings, then collected four in the ninth.

Before the game, Cubs manager Lou Piniella said his team wasn't exactly suited to manufacturing runs and the weather might be a factor. He tried to clarify after Tuesday's game.

"Look, I don't want you to misinterpret my statement," Piniella said. "My statement was we hit a lot of fly balls. That was my statement. We've got to play in cold weather the same way the other team does, and we have to win our share of ballgames in cold weather the same way the other team does. I don't want you to misinterpret that we can't win baseball games in cold weather -- that's not what I meant."

No, what he meant was, the Cubs just aren't getting hits. And it's cold.

"It's not the easiest thing in the world to swing a bat in cold weather -- I can tell you that," Piniella said. "I did it for 17 years in the big leagues. If you gave me my preference [of] hitting in 40-degree weather or 80-degree weather, I'd take 80-degree weather all the time.

"At the same time, you have to be selective and make the other pitcher pitch," he said. "I think that's what we did in the ninth inning, and we put a nice little rally together and gave ourselves a chance to put the winning run at the plate."

It was late, though.

"I really believe this team is set up to get you right away, and we have to start putting pressure on the opposing guy and jump on them like they're jumping on us."
-- Cliff Floyd

"The ninth inning is when they pay that closer a lot of money to get guys out," Floyd said. "We have to give those guys something to think about over there, and not just Houston, but anybody."

Scott hit a two-run double in the first and a run-scoring groundout in the fifth to back Chris Sampson (1-0). The right-hander, making his first start of the season, threw five scoreless innings, giving up three hits and striking out three.

The Astros rapped out four straight hits off Cubs starter Marquis (0-1) with one out in the first, starting with a double by Morgan Ensberg. Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee each singled, with Ensberg scoring on Lee's hit. Scott doubled over Soriano in center to score both Berkman and Lee and make it 3-0.

Could Soriano have caught the ball?

"It's a tough play," Piniella said. "The ball was hit pretty well on the line. It's not an easy play."

"It's a hard line drive, and it's difficult to see if I could've caught that ball," Soriano said. "Maybe if I had a better jump, who knows?"

Izturis made a throwing error in the fourth, and fielding errors in the fourth and fifth. It's the first time he's committed three in a game; he had made two errors three times, most recently Aug. 13, 2005. A Gold Glove winner in 2004, he's the first Cubs shortstop to commit three in a game since Shawon Dunston did so May 9, 1997, at San Francisco.

"Errors are going to happen," Marquis said. "We know what he can do out there. He's a great shortstop, and he'll be making great plays out there all year. It didn't really cost us much today, so I don't think we're too worried."

"When that happens, it's a fluke," DeRosa said of Izturis' mistakes. "He's one of the best in the game, if not the best behind Omar Vizquel."

"You have to forget about it, about everything," Izturis said. "It's a good day tomrorow to start over and go from there."

The Cubs will start over on Wednesday in the series finale against the Astros.

"We have a very good strong lineup," Soriano said. "I don't know if everybody is too anxious or it's the weather. We're not hitting like we're supposed to hit. I know we're better than this. I think our offense is better than that."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.