Cubs go down swinging ... and missing

Cubs go down swinging, missing

HOUSTON -- The Cubs not only missed opportunities to drive in runs Monday night, but also a chance to catch the Milwaukee Brewers.

Eric Munson hit a walk-off RBI single with two outs in the 10th inning Monday night to lift the Houston Astros to a 2-1 victory over the Cubs, who stayed one game back in the National League Central Division behind the Brewers, who lost, 6-2, to Colorado.

The Cubs need to figure out left-handed pitchers and how to deal with extra-inning games. They're now 1-7 in extra-inning contests.

With the game tied at 1 in the 10th against Michael Wuertz (2-3), Ty Wigginton walked, advanced on Jason Lane's sacrifice and reached third one out later on a wild pitch. Munson singled off a slider to hand the Cubs their fourth loss in the last five games.

"It kills you every time," Wuertz said of the leadoff walk. "Extra-inning game, tie game, you walk the leadoff guy and it comes back to haunt you every time. It's a tough way to lose the game. You have to go back out there when you get the ball again and learn from your mistakes."

The Cubs had a runner at third with two outs in the 10th, but Brad Lidge struck out pinch-hitter Cliff Floyd to end the inning. The Cubs struck out a lot in this game, as Astros pitchers totaled 13 Ks.

"We squandered some opportunities early in the game and late in the game, and they took advantage of theirs," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "You hold a team to two runs in 10 innings you should win."

Despite having some potentially powerful right-handed bats, the Cubs can't seem to hit left-handed pitchers. Any reason why?

"Beats me," Chicago's Ryan Theriot said. "We've got a lot of good right-handed hitters, so it should be the other way around. Maybe sometimes you might try to do too much. When you've got a good lefty who's throwing good breaking balls, you've got to go up there with a game plan and have something you're trying to accomplish each at-bat. If not, if he's locating his breaking balls, you're in trouble."

That's what Houston's Wandy Rodriguez was doing. The lefty struck out a career-high nine batters, held the Cubs to four hits over eight innings, and escaped a few jams.


"His curveball was lights out today. I hit a few changeups and thought they were fastballs the whole time."
-- Ryan Theriot, on Wandy Rodriguez

"He was locating his breaking ball," said Theriot, who doubled twice off the lefty. "My plan was not to let him get to it. His curveball was lights out today. I hit a few changeups and thought they were fastballs the whole time. He pitched well."

This was Day 1 without Soriano, who suffered a slight tear in his right quad running the bases Sunday night. The team leader in home runs and the catalyst for the lineup, Soriano is expected to be sidelined at least one month.

"It's a loss, it really is," Piniella said. "We're going to have to step it up and do without him."

The Cubs went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position in the game, and stranded six baserunners in the first four innings before Theriot doubled to lead off the fifth and eventually scored on Derrek Lee's groundout.

That tied the game at 1. Carlos Lee put the Astros on the board with his 24th homer with two outs in the fourth off starter Rich Hill, who did not get a decision. Hill was solid, giving up one run, three hits and two walks over seven innings, while striking out six.

"To go out there and throw the ball the way I should throw the ball, it felt great out there," Hill said. "Just one mistake, and actually it was a good pitch. Tip your hat to Carlos hitting that ball. It was a great piece of hitting."

Hill has tweaked his mechanics to get back to the way he was throwing the ball the first two months of the season. He stayed aggressive, and it worked.

This also was Day 14 of a 20-game stretch for the Cubs with no off-day.

"It's just a matter of going out there every day and being ready to play," Wuertz said. "Fortunately, we're playing inside, so the heat's not a factor. You've got to come here every day and be prepared and go about your work. The next six days, we've got to play hard and hopefully get some wins out of it and enjoy that off-day when it comes."

Nobody's running on fumes, Wuertz said.

"That's our job. That's what we do," he said. "I think everybody feels really good. If we aren't, you just tell Lou or tell Larry [Rothschild, pitching coach]. For the most part, I think everybody feels good."

They'd probably feel a little better if Soriano was here.

"It's a gap we're going to have to fill and step up," Hill said. "It's a hard one to take. We hope to see him soon back here and playing again."

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