Late D-backs homer dooms Cubs
Hill gives strong outing, but hits in short supply in loss
CHICAGO -- The Cubs weren't used to this kind of ending.
After having won seven of eight on their current 10-game homestand, 19 of their past 24, and moving within 2 1/2 games of Milwaukee for the National League Central Division lead, the Cubs had to adjust to a loss after falling, 3-2, to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday. Despite the result, no one was hanging their head in the clubhouse after the game.
"It's baseball," Koyie Hill said. "We all know, we've all been playing long enough, that you've got to maintain an even keel. It's never as good as it seems, it's never as bad as it seems. Go out there and try to win the game that day."
Starter Rich Hill agreed, emphasizing that Saturday's outcome was only one in a long 162- game season.
"A game like today, we lose. So what? Move on," Rich Hill said. "Tomorrow's another day, and that's the way you've got to play. You can't worry about what Milwaukee's doing or winning five more games, it's just tomorrow. We've done a very good job at focusing on the game on that day."
Bob Howry (5-5) gave up the go-ahead run on a solo home run to Stephen Drew in the eighth. Howry entered the game in the top of the inning, and struck out pinch-hitter Augie Ojeda before giving up the blast to Drew.
"I just missed [with] location," Howry said. "It was down and in, [I] left it in his wheelhouse, he hit it out. Good hitters, you miss your spots, put it in their wheelhouse, and they hit it hard."
The Cubs had a chance to pull out the come-from-behind win in the eighth. Aramis Ramirez stepped to the plate with one out and Ryan Theriot on first, but grounded into a double play to end the inning.
"They're up one run and we've got the middle of our order coming up the next inning -- the bottom of the eighth -- you feel good about your chances," Mark DeRosa said. "[Ramirez] can't be the hero every game. It's one of those games where we all sit on the bench and hope someone's going to get it done. Today it didn't happen."
Cliff Floyd gave the Cubs one final shot in the ninth. After not starting for the second straight day, due to neck soreness, Floyd pinch-hit for Koyie Hill with two outs and DeRosa on first. Floyd took the first pitch from D-backs closer Jose Valverde before popping out to end the game.
"In that situation, I knew he was going to throw a fastball," Floyd said. "Of course, you don't know where he's going to throw it, but you anticipate him throwing fastball, and I just didn't get the bat there."
Floyd said that he felt good, but that it was up to Cubs manager Lou Piniella as to when he would be back in the lineup. He was one of three heavy hitters that the Cubs missed on Saturday. Derrek Lee served game four of a five-game suspension, and Daryle Ward is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right calf.
The Cubs were 3-0 without Lee, but figured that they would miss his bat at some point. The depleted offense managed just four hits on Saturday.
"It will show eventually," Piniella said. "You've got to have your better hitters in the lineup, but we've done a pretty good job compensating. Today we had chances, and like I said, we left people on when we've been getting these people in earlier in the week."
Juan Cruz (4-1) got the win for the Diamondbacks, who jumped out to an early lead in the first without getting a hit. Chris Young led off the game with a ground ball that got under Ramirez's glove and into left field for a two-base error. Young stole third on Rich Hill's first pitch to Orlando Hudson, and scored the next pitch on Hudson's groundout. It was only the 24th unearned run scored against the Cubs this season, the fewest in the National League.
Rich Hill struck out six, and gave up two runs on a season-high 116 pitches in six innings. Part of the reason for the high pitch count was the fact that Arizona hitters kept fouling off pitches.
"You've just got to make a better pitch," Rich Hill said of the numerous foul balls. "It is frustrating, but you've got to be able to make an adjustment and see what they're doing, read the hitter, and make an adjustment as a pitcher."
The bottom of the first saw a little bit of drama after Diamondbacks starter Micah Owings threw high and tight on Ramirez, nearly hitting his head. Ramirez reeled to avoid the pitch, then spun around and took a couple of steps out of the batter's box toward Owings, but Arizona catcher Chris Snyder got in front of Ramirez, and order was quickly restored. The pitch was Owings' first after walking his second batter of the inning.
"I think I overreacted," Ramirez said. "It was a close game, and that ball was pretty close to my head. That's why I overreacted, but I don't think he was throwing at me."
Jacque Jones doubled to lead off the fourth, and after DeRosa walked, Angel Pagan tripled over the head of right fielder Eric Byrnes to bring both runners in and give the Cubs a 2-1 lead. The Diamondbacks came right back and tied the game at 2 in the fifth. Young walked to lead off the inning, advanced to third on Hudson's single, and scored on a fielder's choice off the bat of Byrnes.
"We didn't swing the bats very well or put any pressure on them," DeRosa said. "[Pagan] got that big triple, besides that, we didn't do much to force the action. When that happens you leave little room for error, and one swing of the bat gives you an L."
One good note for the Cubs was that Ryan Dempster only gave up one hit in the ninth in his first appearance since being put on the 15-day disabled list June 23 with a left oblique strain.
Confidence still runs rampant throughout the Cubs clubhouse, though. The return of Dempster only reinforces that confidence. The team is 29-14 since June 3, which remains the best record in the National League. They've won six of their last seven series, and look to win No. 7 Sunday in the finale against Arizona.
"We always expect to win," Howry said. "Even today after I gave up the home run, you always think there's a chance we're going to come back the way we've been playing. It didn't happen today, but we're still playing good ball, it's one ballgame, we come back and try to win the series tomorrow."
Marc Zarefsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.