Cubs have Sun-day blues vs. Bucs
Soriano can't handle routine fly ball in the ninth inning
PITTSBURGH -- Alfonso Soriano lost the Cubs' chance to finally win a road series in the sun.
For the second straight game, Jason Bay was Pittsburgh's hero. On Saturday, he hit a walk-off RBI single in the 14th inning, and on Sunday, he delivered another in the 11th to lift the Pirates to a 6-5 victory over the Cubs. It was the fourth extra-inning game between these two teams this season.
There never should've been an 11th inning. The Cubs had a 5-4 lead going into the Pirates' ninth, and Carlos Marmol, subbing for closer Kerry Wood, got Chris Gomez to pop out, walked Freddy Sanchez, and then struck out Luis Rivas, who had hit two home runs in the game. Nate McLouth lofted a ball to left, which Soriano camped under, but lost in the sun. The ball dropped, and McLouth was credited with a double. Pinch-runner Brian Bixler scored from first to tie the game at 5.
"That's going to happen in a game," Marmol said. "We're not perfect. You don't see him do that very often in the ninth inning. It's just going to happen."
Lou Piniella, who opted not to talk after Saturday's game, did meet with the media on Sunday for less than 30 seconds.
"Tough loss, but let's just regroup at home, forget about what happened and go about our business," Piniella said. "That's all I have to say about the last two days. Too many mistakes, and you're going to get beat, especially on the road in close games. Outside of that, let's go get the Dodgers on Monday and go from there."
What was Soriano's take on the ball?
"It was very tough," Soriano said. "I tried at the last moment to catch the ball, but it was in the sun. When it came off the bat, I saw it very clear. At the last moment, it was in the sun, and it was tough to catch it because I never saw it.
"It hit me on the glove, but I didn't see the ball," Soriano said.
There wasn't anything he could do differently, Soriano said.
"That surprised me at the last moment with the ball going down," he said. "I never thought that ball would get lost in the sun.
"Everybody knows if it's not in the sun, it's a routine fly ball," Soriano said. "They know I didn't do it on purpose. It's very tough when you can't see the ball."
In the 11th, Gomez led off against Jon Lieber (2-3) with an infield single, and advanced on Bixler's sacrifice. Rivas struck out, and McLouth was intentionally walked. Bay slapped an 0-1 pitch to left for the game-winner.
The Cubs may be homesick. How else to explain that they're winless in their last seven road series, and have not won one since they swept the Pirates April 7-10. By the way, that series also included two extra-inning games.
"I don't know what it is," said Ted Lilly, who started Sunday's game. "I know for us to get a good lead in this division and do what we're going to need to do, we're going to have to play well on the road. I think the guys know that, I think we all know that.
"Maybe we have to prove it to ourselves that we can go on the road and win consistently," Lilly said. "We haven't done it to this point. We've got a lot of season left -- not to say we can sit around and let it happen. I think we all know it needs to start happening on our next road trip, and I think we'll approach it that way."
It certainly would make the flights home a lot more pleasant. Next road trip is in one week on the West Coast.
Soriano did hit a two-run homer in the third, and the Cubs took a 5-4 lead in the eighth against Pirates starter Paul Maholm when Derrek Lee doubled and just beat a throw to second. He then scored on Aramis Ramirez's single to center.
Piniella is not a fan of instant replay but may reconsider his stance after Rivas gave the Pirates a questionable 1-0 lead in the first with his first home run. Rivas' ball appeared to bounce on the top of the padded wall behind Soriano, then drop back into play. Rivas hesitated at third, but third-base umpire Wally Bell signaled home run.
"I know the pitch wasn't very good, and it would've been nice if it was called back," Lilly said. "I made a lot of mistakes in the game today. I'm certainly not going to let myself think about what could've been in that case."
"I'm not sure where the ball hit," Soriano said of Rivas' ball. "I jumped to try to catch the ball."
There was no doubting Xavier Nady's homer leading off the Pirates' second. Rivas avoided any controversy when he hit his second homer with two outs in the third. This was the first time Lilly has given up three homers in a game since he did so in back-to-back starts last May 30 against Florida and June 5 against Milwaukee.
The Cubs were headed home Sunday night. They're 19-8 at Wrigley Field. But they'll still be thinking about what could've been.
"Today is a very frustrating loss," Soriano said. "Two outs in the ninth inning, routine fly ball, and nothing's working out right now for us."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.