7th-inning mistakes turn lead into loss

Chicago CubsScott EyreBob HowryJeff ConineJason MarquisRyan FreelWill Ohman

Seven weeks of spring training was not long enough for manager Lou Piniella to make any snap judgments about his team.

But after the Cubs blew a late lead Thursday in a 5-2 loss to Cincinnati, he has a better indication of what things he has to watch in the early going.

"We had opportunities in this series to score a lot more than seven [runs]," he said. "We have to do a better job of hitting with men on base, have to cut down on the walks. Baserunning mistakes hurt us today. … But all in all, it's the start of the season, and we'll get these things corrected as we go forward. What can I say?"

The Cubs lost two of three to the Reds, blowing a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning Thursday after Jason Marquis pitched six strong innings in his Cubs debut.

Although Marquis had thrown only 84 pitches and allowed four hits over six innings, Piniella called on his bullpen and watched that decision blow up.

"Physically, I felt great," Marquis said. "But it's not my decision, and I'm not going to question Lou. That's why he's the manager. Just go out there and pitch until he takes the ball out of my hands."

Scott Hatteberg led off the seventh with a single off Bob Howry, advanced to third on a sacrifice and a groundout and scored the tying run on Jeff Conine's bloop single to center.

"Made a decent pitch, but he's a good hitter, he put it in play, and I compounded it by walking the next guy," Howry said. "It's one thing to give up the tying run … but you walk the next guy and put another guy in scoring position. … I hate walking guys."

Howry was yanked after walking Ryan Freel, and Will Ohman promptly threw a wild pitch that advanced the runners as he fell behind Adam Dunn. Ohman then walked Dunn to load the bases, and when ball four got past catcher Michael Barrett, Conine came home with the go-ahead run.

Barrett "just missed it," Piniella said. "Looked to me like a backdoor slider."

Ohman took the blame for the loss, for putting the go-ahead run at third with his wild pitch. But Barrett's passed ball made the difference. He said he was guarding for a ball in the dirt, though it barely stayed above ground.

"Even though it was in reach, it was 2 feet to the right more than I prepared for," Barrett said.

Barrett then had trouble with the ball at the backstop, losing it from his grip as he tried to rush a throw.

"My job there is to keep the ball in front of me no matter what, and I didn't get the job done," Barrett said. "We'll get to work on it. It's not a matter of whose fault it is."

Hatteberg added a two-run homer off Scott Eyre in the eighth, sealing the deal and sending the Cubs to Milwaukee on a down note.

psullivan@tribune.com

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