HOUSTON -- J.D. Martinez hit the go-ahead RBI single in the sixth inning and Jose Altuve had a solo homer to give the Houston Astros a 2-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.The loss extends Chicago's losing skid to a season-long eight games.The hit by Martinez was the first for Houston since the first inning, but Justin Maxwell and Carlos Lee both drew two-out walks before it to set up the score.Houston starter J.A. Happ (4-3) allowed five hits and a run in six innings for the win. Closer Brett Myers pitched a perfect ninth for his 11th save.Alfonso Soriano led off the fourth inning with a solo shot to left-center field that tied it at 1-1. The home run marked the first time in four games that Chicago had scored before the ninth inning.
Oh, it all started so promising.
The Bears looked like a well-oiled machine early Sunday, looking like the kind of team bouncing back from a gut-wrenching loss to the Green Bay Packers a week prior. But with another NFC North rival in town, this time the Detroit Lions, things turned ugly in a hurry — and the result ended up the same.
The Bears lost for the seventh time in 10 games this season, falling to the Lions by a 27-24 score on the shores of Lake Michigan.
An offense that has struggled to put points on the board much of the year — and couldn’t match a Packers offense led by backup quarterback Brett Hundley last weekend — started strong, with three scoring drives in its first four possessions. Mitch Trubisky led scoring drives of 70, 55 and 73 yards, producing 17 points and had the Bears ahead by 10 midway through the second quarter.
The lone Lions points came after a rare miscue by the offense in the opening 20-plus minutes when Trubisky fumbled a snap, only for D.J. Hayden to run it back 27 yards for a touchdown. But still, the Bears looked the superior team on both sides of the ball.
It was then, though, that Matt Stafford flipped a switch and started picking apart the Bears’ defense. Backed up at his own nine-yard line after an offensive pass-interference penalty, Stafford marched the Lions down the field, rattling off completions of 17, 40 and 28 yards, the last a touchdown pass that took advantage of a badly burned Marcus Cooper.
Stafford then led a 73-yard touchdown drive, once again picking apart the Bears’ secondary and giving his Lions a lead right before the half, a sudden turn of events considering the Bears had a double-digit lead not long before.
After an uneventful third quarter, the Bears tied the game with five minutes remaining on a stellar touchdown run by Tarik Cohen. But Stafford marched the Lions right down the field immediately afterward, and the Lions cashed in with a 52-yard go-ahead field goal.
Trubisky led the Bears downfield and put them in position for a game-tying field goal, but Connor Barth’s attempt was way off the mark, sending the Bears to another upsetting defeat.
Tarik Cohen gets back in the game
After earning much social-media scorn the last few weeks, the Bears’ coaching staff brought Tarik Cohen back with a vengeance.
The rookie running back proved himself a dangerous offensive weapon early in the season, but he had been largely absent for weeks, combining for just five rushing attempts and three receptions in the previous three games against the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and aforementioned Packers.
Well, the Bears’ coaches must have heard all that criticism and heavily involved Cohen, who finished with nine rushes for 44 yards and four catches for 15 yards. He was targeted a total of six times.
And Cohen came up with a huge play late in the game, taking a shovel pitch from Trubisky, running to the pylon and flipping his way into the end zone, extending the ball in midair to make sure it was a touchdown. That score tied the game at 24 with five minutes left.
The Bears’ defense — already well bothered with injuries — added a couple more to the list Sunday.
None seemed more significant than the one to Leonard Floyd, who was taken off the field on a cart in the fourth quarter after Kyle Fuller crashed into Floyd’s right knee. Floyd spent a good deal of time on the ground before the cart came out.
Fuller suffered a wrist injury on the same play, with TV cameras catching the sight of an awful lot of blood.
At various points, defensive linemen Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman left the field with members of the training staff. And on the offensive side, wide receiver Josh Bellamy was announced as being in the concussion protocol after a play in the third quarter.
On two consecutive Saturday evenings the Blackhawks were looking for a little more offense. On two consecutive Saturday evenings they got some from Gustav Forsling, whose shots got through to either tie a game (vs. Carolina) or take a lead (vs. Pittsburgh).
Forsling isn’t the big go-to guy when it comes to points but he’s nevertheless getting them for a Blackhawks team that’s starting to find its offense again. But this is more about Forsling’s overall game which, not long after he made the Blackhawks roster last fall, plateaued. This season he’s been more consistent and more confident from the start, and he and Jan Rutta have formed a pair that coach Joel Quenneville trusts and has kept together for most of this season. The 21-year-old defenseman talked of working on the mental side of his game entering this season and said he feels the difference.
“I’ve been working on it this summer and I feel a little bit better,” he said. “[Just] more confident with the puck and confident in myself and pretty much everywhere.”
Quenneville has seen the difference.
“I think he’s getting better with his reads,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a better gap. [Being] quicker all over the ice is part of that and nice to see him pound one that goes through because his shot can be a lot heavier than it’s been and we want him to use it a little bit more, too.”
Forsling says he feels comfortable playing with any of the Blackhawks’ defensemen but there’s no doubt he and Rutta have been good together. The two clicked immediately, and at times they’ve been the Blackhawks’ second pair.
“I think we’re thinking the same way out there on the ice. We have a great conversation out there and everything’s worked out fine,” Forsling said. “He’s a funny guy and we get along well.”
Forsling’s offensive contributions are welcomed but so is his defense. When the Rangers were looking for the game-tying goal late in the third period on Wednesday, Forsling was on Corey Crawford’s left side to prevent David Desharnais from scoring it. Seventy-six seconds later, Artem Anisimov’s goal gave the Blackhawks a two-goal lead.
“Great play by him,” Crawford said. “For us, we want to cover the short side there and it’s great or him to get over quick and get his stick there. Definitely a great stop by him.”
Forsling’s playing with more confidence. He’s added a little early offense. The Blackhawks wanted Forsling to reach another level this season and so far, he’s doing that.