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Bad pattern: Clutching in the clutch
Cubs let scoring chances go to waste
This is how bad things are going for the Cubs: They lost to Tony Armas Jr. at Wrigley Field.
What's so bad about that?
Well, Armas hadn't won a road game since April 10, 2003, when the Nationals were known as the Expos. That would be 11 starts ago, an interval that included an 0-6 record and 8.20 earned-run average.
His last road win?
"I don't remember," he said.
It was, of course, at Wrigley Field.
More than two years later, he beat the Cubs 4-2 on Saturday, ruining Jerome Williams' Wrigley Field debut and Corey Patterson's chances of remaining in the leadoff spot.
On a 67-degree day with the wind blowing in and a season-high 40,488 in attendance, the Cubs' offense made Armas feel right at home despite outhitting the Nationals 8-5.
"You hate to look up [at the scoreboard] and they've got four runs on five hits," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "Jerome pitched pretty good. [The Nationals] didn't hit the ball that hard; they picked up runners when they had to."
And the Cubs didn't pick up their runners.
If not for Derrek Lee, the Cubs wouldn't have scored at all. He was the only Cub to cross home plate and had three hits as the offense again wasted scoring opportunities.
"We couldn't get any offense going," Lee said. "We've got to find ways to score runs."
Lee cut the Cubs' deficit to 3-1 in the fourth inning when he led off with his second triple in two days and sprinted home on Aramis Ramirez's groundout. Then he powered his 25th homer, second best in the National League, to lead off the sixth inning.
But his teammates weren't as efficient, leaving six runners stranded on the bases and squandering several prime scoring chances.
The problems started in the first inning after Patterson struck out for the first of three times. Neifi Perez and Lee both singled, but Jeromy Burnitz bounced into a double play.
In the second inning, Ramirez led off with a single but never got to second when Todd Walker, Todd Hollandsworth and Michael Barrett made outs.
In the fifth, Hollandsworth led off with a double and Barrett singled him to third. Williams sacrificed Barrett to second, but Patterson popped up to short and Perez grounded out to first.
After Lee's homer in the sixth, Burnitz walked, Ramirez lined into a double play, Walker singled and Hollandsworth walked, but Barrett flied out.
As shadows covered home plate in the late afternoon, the last nine Cubs made outs, although for the first time in three days Patterson didn't make the last out.
Baker's patience appears to have run out with Patterson batting leadoff. This was his eighth game there and he has five hits in 38 at-bats.
"We've got to change something," Baker said. "He's trying to do the right thing, but it's not going real good right now."
Williams (1-1 with the Cubs) completed seven innings and yielded the four runs, although he retired 10 of the last 12 batters he faced.
The Nationals scored in the first inning for the second straight day on a solo home run by Jose Guillen.
They tacked on two more in the fourth on a single, walk, sacrifice, sacrifice fly and single. And they upped their lead to 4-1 in the fifth when Brad Wilkerson tripled into the vines in left field and scored on a sacrifice fly by Junior Spivey.
"I gave up a couple of mistakes and it hurt me," Williams said. "I've got to get it back next time."
Fortunately, his next time in Wrigley Field won't be against Tony Armas Jr.