Saturday , October 06, 2007
CHICAGO —Make it 99 years and counting for the Chicago Cubs.
And this time, they can curse what happened at the plate and on the mound instead of a billy goat or a black cat.
The Cubs' "big three" hitters were a big disappointment, and things weren't much better on the mound as the Arizona Diamondbacks beat Chicago 5-1 on Saturday night to complete a three-game sweep in their NL division series.
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Derrek Lee got two hits in the final game after going 2-for-8 in the first two, but Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez combined to go 0-for-7. Lee, Soriano and Ramirez did not drive in a run in this series.
So the Cubs' quest for their first championship since 1908 continues. Even after a $300 million offseason spending spree.
Chicago also is headed for an uncertain winter with its ownership situation in flux. Tribune Co. put the team and historic Wrigley Field on the block in April, saying it would sell the team after the season and intended to do so by the end of the year.
Soriano, who signed a $136 million, eight-year contract in December, was 0-for-5 and went 2-for-15 in the series after hitting a club-record 14 homers in September. Fittingly, he made the final out — a fly to right.
Ramirez, who agreed to a $75 million extension in the offseason, was worse. He went 0-for-12 in the series and capped it with a strikeout, double play and groundout to go with a walk.
"He struggled this series but we didn't do much offensively," manager Lou Piniella said. "What did we score? Six runs in the three games. We had numerous opportunities tonight, numerous, and I don't know how many double plays we hit into but it was quite a few."
That explains why fans booed Ramirez and Soriano after their final at-bats. But the blame extended beyond the big sluggers.
Piniella, in his first season in Chicago, was criticized after pulling Carlos Zambrano after just 85 pitches in Game 1. Mark Reynolds promptly hit a tiebreaking homer off Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol, setting the tone for the series sweep.
Piniella, who managed the Cincinnati Reds to a title in 1990, was brought in for his passion and experience but his team looked pretty listless in its first-round flameout.
"When you don't score runs and you leave a lot of people on, it looks lackluster but it wasn't," Piniella said. "These guys gave effort."