Cubs can't capitalize, shut out by Braves
Chicago collects 10 hits, strands 12; Dempster takes loss
ATLANTA -- The Cubs managed to put plenty of dings and dents in Braves starter Javier Vazquez's pitching line. They just couldn't put up a crooked number in the only stat column that counts.
Without offensive catalysts Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley in the starting lineup, the Cubs mounted plenty of threats against Vazquez, but couldn't capitalize in Monday night's 2-0 loss at Turner Field. The game was a makeup of a June 4 rainout.
The Cubs reached Vazquez for nine hits and two walks, but left 12 runners on base in the game. They had runners in scoring position in the fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth innings, but were unable to drive in the equalizer each time.
"We got enough hits," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella. "We just didn't hit with men on base. Vazquez pitched well. Both starting pitchers pitched well. But when you get 10 hits, you figure you'll score a few. We just didn't do it."
Unfortunately for the Cubs, all of their hits were singles and eight of their baserunners reached with two outs.
Ryan Dempster was almost as elusive as Vazquez, but took the hard-luck loss after battling through 6 2/3 innings while allowing just two earned runs on eight hits. Although Atlanta stranded nine runners, it was able to get an RBI single from Nate McLouth in the third and a sacrifice fly from Chipper Jones in the seventh to provide the offense.
"I could have done a little bit better job tonight, maybe keeping it to a one-run lead to give us more of an opportunity," Dempster said. "That's the way it goes. ... The biggest thing is to come out and bounce back and get a win [Tuesday]."
Dempster wasn't his sharpest, as he racked up a high pitch count early. He walked four, including a leadoff walk to Diory Hernandez in the third. Hernandez eventually scored on McLouth's single.
Still, Dempster minimized the damage provided another quality start, providing rest for a weary bullpen. However, his effort proved fruitless and he remains winless in June, despite pitching well in all of his starts this month.
"I just want to be part of the fun," Dempster said. "We had a little fun there for four days."
The Cubs came into Monday's game winners of four straight, including a weekend sweep of the Indians at Wrigley Field. Two of those games featured extra innings and three were decided by one run. Monday's offensive letdown was a sobering start to the team's 10-game road trip.
The tone for Chicago's night of offensive frustration was set in the first inning, when it knocked three singles off Vazquez, but didn't score. When the night ended, the visitors had stranded runners in all but two innings.
Two of those runners were stranded in the ninth against Braves reliever Rafael Soriano. Andres Blanco drew a leadoff walk, but was followed by a pinch-hit strikeout from Bradley and another strikeout by Ryan Theriot. After Kosuke Fukudome walked to put the tying run on first, Jake Fox struck out to end the game.
"I was looking for a fastball over the plate," Fox said. "I felt like the first one was a little off the plate. He made a mistake with a slider, but it was a little slower than I thought because I had never seen it before. Again, I thought the third strike was a little off, but I'll have to look at the film. If it turns out they were strikes over the plate, I'll tip my cap to him."
Soriano and Bradley were both given days off by Piniella in anticipation of the 16 straight games the Cubs will play before their next off-day. The two outfielders' absence was noticeable, but Fox and Micah Hoffpauir combined to go an admirable 3-for-8.
Leaving 12 runners on base is certainly a symptom of missed offensive opportunities, but the Cubs were quick to give credit to Vazquez and the Atlanta bullpen.
"We just couldn't get the big hit tonight," Fox said. "Some nights are like that. On nights like that, you have to tip your cap to the other pitcher. He pitched a heck of a ballgame. He pitched where he wanted to, he was hitting his spots, and he kept us off balance. As much as you're trying to get a hit, he's trying to get you out."
After Monday's game, the Cubs headed to Detroit for their third game in three days in three different cities. Although traveling to Atlanta for one day was an inconvenience, the Cubs weren't using their schedule as an excuse.
"I would have rather played the game the night it was scheduled," Piniella said. "But we came here, we played the game, and we lost. I'm not complaining."
Through the disappointment of the loss, Dempster was able to take a humorous approach to viewing the whirlwind three-day span.
"I think it's fun," Dempster said. "We're racking up frequent-flyer miles. I'll be able to go to Hawaii in the offseason."
Adam Rosenberg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.