4/25 Cardinals 5, Cubs 1

The Cubs missed a chance to sweep the Cardinals on Wednesday. Chris Volstad took the loss, extending his winless streak to 15 starts. He has not celebrated a victory since last July 10. The right-hander cruised through five innings and then missed his spots in the sixth. With the game tied at 1, Rafael Furcal singled and scored two outs later on Carlos Beltran’s double. David Freese followed with his fourth home run of the season and 22nd by the team off a 2-2 pitch.

“Two outs, you’ve got to be able to close those innings out,” Volstad said. “One swing of the bat put us in a big hole. I had been working him in the entire game and that one [pitch] wasn’t in as much as the other ones. He did a great job.”

Said Dale Sveum: “He threw the ball really well up to that point. He got the sinker in on Freese all day long and tried to come in and left it out over the plate and that was a backbreaker in that inning. … For the most part, it was a much more improved outing and he pitched more aggressively and used his sinker and did a good job.”

Rookie catcher Steve Clevenger noticed Volstad’s pitches started to trend up in the sixth. Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio want the Cubs catchers to monitor the pitchers to reduce visits to the mound.

“If [the pitchers] aren’t executing, we can go out and tell them,” Clevenger said.

Which is what he did in the sixth.

“[Volstad] pitched really good — just one bad inning, and I wouldn’t even say it was a bad inning,” Clevenger said. “The ball to Freese was in and Freese did a good job of getting to it. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe we went in there too much. Maybe we should have gone with something different. That was the game plan, we stuck with it, and Freese did a good job.”

* Cubs pitching has combined for a 2.35 ERA in the last five games. That includes a 1.76 ERA by the bullpen.

* Bryan LaHair has hit four of the Cubs seven home runs this season, and connected in back to back games.

“The first at-bat, [Lance Lynn] threw me a fastball away, fastball in and I fouled it back,” LaHair said. “My second at-bat, he threw me a fastball away and I hit that one. I made the adjustment.”

Sveum wants to see more home runs.

“Coming in, [LaHair] was one guy we needed to hit home runs,” Sveum said. “We definitely need those two corner guys [LaHair and Ian Stewart] to drive the ball out of the ballpark.”

Stewart is batting .175 for the season.

“I think sometimes when you don’t get results, guys start pressing a little and swinging out of the zone,” Sveum said. “We’ll get him going. He’s got too much bat speed. For the most part, he’s getting good pitches to hit. We just have to get him going swinging the bat.”

* The Cubs were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position Wednesday.

* After a day off Thursday, the Cubs travel to Philadelphia for a four-game series against the Phillies. Paul Maholm will get things started on Friday against Roy Halladay.

– Carrie Muskat 

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