Cubs’ pen implodes in series-opening loss

Jul 9, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Pedro Strop (46) delivers a pitch against the Los Angeles Angels during the ninth inning at Wrigley Field. The Cubs beat the Angels 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cubs pitchers have pitched tremendously lately.

Beyond tremendously, really.

The offense? Well, not so much.

Coming on the heels of a sweep of the defending World Series Champion Giants in San Francisco, the Cubs returned home to do battle with the lowly Milwaukee Brewers. In typical Cubs fashion, the team struggled against Milwaukee, the last-place team in the NL Central, losing in the series opener, 5-0.

Reliever Pedro Strop entered a scoreless ballgame in the ninth inning, making an appearance for the fourth straight day, and for this first time, he allowed a run in a Cubs uniform. The right-hander issued a lead-off walk to the Brewers’ number three hitter, Jean Segura, and then Jonathan Lucroy singled to put two men on with nobody out. Carlos Gomez then looped a single into left field, scoring Segura. Caleb Gindl laid down a bunt, and Cubs catcher Welington Castillo attempted to nail the runner advancing the third, but failed. After a punchout of Juan Francisco, Jeff Bianchi laced a two-run double kto right field to push the Brewers lead to 3-0.

Cubs’ skipper Dale Sveum went to the pen again at this point, bringing in Blake Parker to face pinch-hitter Yuniesky Betancourt. Parker put away the pinch-hitter on a sinking fastball on the inside corner for the second out of the inning. Brewers leadoff man Rickie Weeks, who was hitless entering his ninth inning at-bat, doubled past a diving Nate Schierholtz down the right field line to break the game wide open at 5-0.

Needless to say, Strop (1-4) was less than impressive for the first time since coming to the Cubs. In just one-third of an inning, he allowed three hits and was charged with all five runs allowed in the frame. He also walked one and struck out one.

Both teams’ starting pitchers were masterful, with Jeff Samardzija and Kyle Lohse dueling to a pair of no-decisions. Lohse tossed six innings of scoreless ball, allowing just five hits while striking out six and walking three. Samardzija took a no-hitter into the fifth, and ended the night with seven spotless innings of three-hit ball, with seven punch outs.

On a more positive note, Junior Lake broke out of his recent cold spell, going 2-for-4 in his Wrigley Field debut. Schierholtz had a horrendous night at the dish, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts – and several missed RBI opportunities. Chicago now holds a record of 15-29 in the NL Central, and a losing record against all four clubs.

The Cubs (48-56) and Brewers (44-61) will hook up for a day-night doubleheader at the Friendly Confines tomorrow. Game One is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. CDT, with Game Two to follow afterwards. Chicago newcomer Jake Arrieta makes his Cubs’ debut as the starting pitcher in the nightcap.

Topics: Chicago Cubs, Jeff Samardzija, Kyle Lohse, Milwaukee Brewers, Pedro Strop, Rickie Weeks

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