Cubs comeback falls short



By Stephen Hawkins

ARLINGTON, Texas – Kenny Lofton was stuck between second and third base, seemingly a sure out for the Texas Rangers in the bottom of the ninth inning.

“I was just trying to figure out what I can do in that position,” Lofton said. “You just have to react.”

And wait for the Chicago Cubs to make another mistake.

The speedy 40-year-old Lofton scored the winning run in the Rangers’ 6-5 victory Thursday after almost being out twice in the winning rally. After pitcher Bob Howry’s blunder allowed Lofton to get back to second base, he scored on Frank Catalanotto’s pinch-hit single off the glove of diving right fielder Angel Pagan.

“We didn’t execute that little play,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “That’s a play you have to make at that time. Then two balls off outfielders’ gloves, and we go home and try again tomorrow.”

Lofton started the rally off with a leadoff pinch-hit single, a sinking liner to left that Alfonso Soriano hauled in after a diving attempt but couldn’t hold onto when he hit the ground. Adam Melhuse, who had homered earlier, then had a sacrifice bunt.

Howry (3-4) stabbed Brad Wilkerson’s comebacker and ran toward Lofton, who initially froze in the baseline. But the pitcher waited too late to make a throw to shortstop Cesar Izturis and Lofton slid safely headfirst back into second base.

“The pitcher actually did what he was supposed to do. He just held the ball too long and we’re thankful for that,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington, whose team has won five of seven games.

“The idea was to run the guy back and keep the guy from going to second at the same time. But I just held onto it for too long,” Howry said. “It was an opportunity to get out of it and didn’t do it.”

Eric Gagne (2-0), the fifth Rangers pitcher, walked one in his scoreless inning.

Cubs starter Ted Lilly struck out 10 and walked one in his seven innings, finishing strong after a couple of shaky frames. Derrek Lee, getting a game as the designated hitter, was 3-for-4 with two RBIs.

Chicago overcame a 5-0 deficit after stranding seven runners without scoring the first three innings, including the bases loaded with no outs in the second. The Cubs left 13 runners on base in the game, one shy of their season high.

“We had a chance to score anywhere from five to 15 runs today and we ended up with the lower number,” Piniella said. “I truly believe this team is going to hit and hit with men on base. But I tell you what, I’d like to start seeing it. I really would.”

Victor Diaz and Melhuse had back-to-back homers in the second to put the Rangers up 3-0, and Marlon Byrd added a two-run single in the third. But Lilly faced the minimum 14 batters after that and struck out the side in the seventh before coming out after 104 pitches.

With Sammy Sosa getting a break the day after hitting his 600th career homer against his former team, Diaz was the designated hitter. His ninth homer was a two-run shot that barely cleared the right-field wall.

Had Pagan not gotten turned around chasing the ball, the homer by Diaz was a catchable ball. Jerry Hairston Jr. reached on a double in the third that bounced off Pagan’s glove.

The Cubs finally scored after starting the fifth with six straight hits off Vicente Padilla to get within 5-4.

Mike Fontenot had a leadoff double and scored when Lee had the first of five straight singles. Mark DeRosa, Rob Bowen and Pagan also had run-producing hits before Willie Eyre, whose older brother is a Cubs reliever, got out of the jam with two groundballs.