Scoring funk continues as Cubs fall

Scoring funk continues as Cubs fall

HOUSTON -- Maybe the Cubs miss Alfonso Soriano more than they know.

For the second straight game, Chicago's offense scuffled. Jason Lane hit a solo homer, and Carlos Lee notched his 92nd RBI to lift the Houston Astros to a 5-2 victory Tuesday over the Cubs, who lost for the fifth time in their last six games.

"It's hard coming by runs," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "Everybody's got to do their part. I don't think anybody's being asked to carry any more than the load that they can carry."

The Cubs were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position on Monday in a 2-1 loss to Houston. They were 0-for-10 in those situations again Tuesday.

"It's never easy to replace a guy like Soriano," Chicago's Matt Murton said. "As a ballclub, you're never going to replace a guy like that. All you can do is pick up the pieces and find a way to get it done."

It's the first time the Cubs have lost three in a row since a six-game losing streak May 27-June 2.

"Any time you lose a guy like that, it's going to affect the team," Kerry Wood said about Soriano, who will be out at least one month with a strained right quad. "We have plenty of guys who know how to play the game and have been through situations like this before. Injuries are part of the game, and you hate to see them, especially hate to see them to a guy like that who is important to the lineup. That's why it's a team, and the rest of us have to pick up the slack and start winning some games."

The Cubs made another roster move before the game, optioning lefty Will Ohman to Triple-A Iowa and calling up Sean Gallagher. They've considered going with 13 pitchers. But the problem lately isn't really the pitching.

"What we need to do is start hitting the ball," Piniella said. "We need to put some runs on the board, and all these other little problems will take care of themselves."

Astros starter Woody Williams (6-12) got in trouble early when the Cubs loaded the bases in the first with none out, and again in the third. Yet the most they could muster was a bases-loaded walk by Cliff Floyd to go ahead, 1-0, in the first. Williams retired the side in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

"I am a little concerned about our offense here, and I'd be lying if I didn't say I was," Piniella said. "We haven't hit too many balls out of the ballpark. We need to get people in when we have opportunities like we did last night, and take advantage of those."

"I know everybody is giving the effort. I have no problem with that. We're in a little bit of a rough spell now, and we've got to work ourselves out of it. I'm confident we will. Seeing it is better than talking about it."
-- Lou Piniella

They stranded seven runners on Monday. They left seven runners on in the first three innings Tuesday, and left eight on for the game.

"I know everybody is giving the effort," Piniella said. "I have no problem with that. We're in a little bit of a rough spell now, and we've got to work ourselves out of it. I'm confident we will. Seeing it is better than talking about it."

Sean Marshall (5-6) took the loss, serving up five runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings.

"I thought he threw well," Piniella said. "We're not giving the pitchers any runs to work with. He pitched a game good enough to win."

"You have to tip your hats off to the pitchers," Murton said. "When you keep a team under five runs, you hope to have a chance to win the ballgame."

Marshall did his part.

"I just try to pitch and keep the game as close as I could," Marshall said. "It's baseball, and you just want to bounce back for the next start."

Lane tied the game with two outs in the Astros' second with his solo homer. Brad Ausmus then doubled to lead off the Houston sixth, launching a ball off the wall in left that one of the Minute Maid Park scoreboard operators thought had gone out. The fireworks sound effect was a little premature. Ausmus advanced on a sacrifice by pinch-hitter Chris Burke and scored on Biggio's single, which was career hit No. 3,023.

Mark Loretta was safe on an infield hit that trickled down the third-base line and stopped on the chalk. Marshall hovered over the ball and watched it stay fair.

"Those hits can make or break a game sometimes," Marshall said. "I wish it wouldn't have stopped there."

Lance Berkman then hit an RBI single to chase Marshall. Wood, making his second relief appearance since being activated from the disabled list, served up an RBI double to Lee and an RBI single to Ty Wigginton as Houston opened a 5-1 lead.

Murton did homer to lead off the seventh, the first blast by the Cubs since Derrek Lee connected in the sixth inning Friday.

"Over a course of 162 games, you're going to have nights when you don't come up with those key hits," Murton said. "Tonight wasn one of those nights, but that's why there's tomorrow, and hopefully we can get a win and get going in the right direction."

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