May 2012

5/26 Extra bases

Paul Maholm is the perfect pitcher to have on the mound Saturday night for the Cubs as they try to end a 10-game losing streak. Maholm faces his former team, the Pirates, for the first time, and returns to the ballpark where he is the all-time winningest pitcher with 35 W’s. He has more strikeouts (361) and games started (96) at PNC park than any other pitcher. In the last 75 years, only five lefty pitchers have more wins with the Pirates than Maholm (53 total wins): John Candelaria (124 wins), Bob Veale (116), Jim Rooker (82), Jerry Reuss (61) and John Smiley (60).

* The Cubs’ 10-game skid is the 15th double-digit losing streak in club history, and the first since they opened the 1997 season 0-14. The Cubs have posted 10 losing streaks of 11 or more games in team history.

* Why are they losing? They are hitless in their last 25 at-bats with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-4 Tuesday, 0-for-9 on Wednesday, and 0-for-12 Friday. Including a 4-for-15 effort Monday in Houston, the Cubs are batting .100 (4-for-40) with RISP in the last four games and hitting .327 in all other situations during those four contests.

* They’ve lost all four games despite out-hitting the opponent in every game. The last time they lost four straight games when collecting more hits than their opponent was June 20-23, 1991, against the Giants. They’ve only scored in four of the last 56 innings, and the last two runs have come via solo homers.

— Carrie Muskat


5/26 Minor League report

Luis Valbuena hit a solo homer in the ninth to lift the Iowa Cubs to a 2-1 victory Friday night over Memphis. Rodrigo Lopez started the game but was pulled after throwing one pitch because of tightness in his groin, which he felt warming up. Jay Jackson stepped in, and threw five innings of one-run, three-hit relief. He walked two and struck out five. Scott Maine earned the win in relief.

Eric Jokisch gave up two runs on one hit and one walk over five innings in Tennessee’s 4-3 win over Mobile. Jae-Hoon Ha and Luis Flores each hit home runs. Jim Adduci had two hits, an RBI and a stolen base.

Austin Kirk gave up seven hits over eight scoreless innings but did not get a decision in Daytona’s 2-1 loss to Clearwater. Micah Gibbs, Rubi Silva and Dustin Harrington each had two hits.

Starling Peralta gave up one run on five hits over four innings in Peoria’s 3-1 win over Clinton. Zeke DeVoss had two hits, including a double, and Luis Liria converted his first save, pitching three innings in relief.

— Carrie Muskat

5/25 Sveum: “I’m lost for words”

The losing streak reached 10 games Friday after the Cubs dropped a 1-0 decision to the Pirates. It wasn’t that Pittsburgh won. Chicago beat itself, going 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position. This is the first time the Cubs have lost 10 in a row since they dropped the first 14 games of the 1997 season. It’s the franchise’s 15th skid of 10 games or more.

“I think that’s the problem is that we’re trying too hard,” Alfonso Soriano said. “We want to have the big hit and try to make the team better and try to win. We have to be more relaxed and let it happen. This game is not too easy but sometimes we make it harder. I think we’re making it harder because we’re trying too hard. We have to play one at-bat every pitch, and not try to do too much. I think now everybody is trying to do too much because we’re struggling offensively.”

How bad is it? They’ve scored in only four of the last 56 innings. The Cubs now have scored two runs off a starting pitcher in the last six games, a total of 37 2/3 innings.

“It’s unbelievable,” Dale Sveum said. “To out-hit the opponent every night and not score, and we can’t seem to get that hit with men in scoring position. … I’m a little lost for words now. It’s kind of the same thing. Guys are battling and having decent at-bats, good at-bats, and just not finalizing it, really. There’s a lot of good at-bats. They’re just not getting it done.”

— Carrie Muskat 

5/25 Losing stinks

The Cubs’ entered Friday’s game riding a nine-game losing streak.

“I’ve been through a 12-game losing streak once in my career and it grinds on you and it gets frustrating, there’s no question about it,” Dale Sveum said. “It’s human nature. Most of the time it turns around. It turned arond last time I was part of it. We were 20 games over .500 after that.”

That was in 1987 with the Brewers, who actually began that season 13-0, but lost 12 straight May 3-19. They finished 91-71.

“You always say even great teams have a six- to 10-game losing streak in the course of a year,” Sveum said. “Obviously, we’ve got to get a lot of things fixed — we’ve got to score runs and be better in the bullpen and things like that. You have to win one before you do anything.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/25 Castro out of No. 3 spot

Dale Sveum didn’t pick a new lineup out of a hat but he may try that next to kick-start the Cubs offense. On Friday, Starlin Castro was moved from the No. 3 spot to No. 2 for the first time this year and Joe Mather, who was hitting .278, made his 12th start, and and first batting third.

“It’s time,” Sveum said Friday. “The combination of not scoring throughout the whole season and Mather’s been as good as anybody swinging the bat so I’m going to give him a little opportunity to see what he can do. Like I told Castro, I said, ‘It’s not a demotion, it’s more shaking the team up.’ He was great about it — he was like, ‘Hey, I just want to win, I don’t care where I hit in the lineup.’ He took it well and completely understood.”

Mather started in center — he’s also played third and left field. The Cubs would like to see a little more pop out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup. Castro has hit two home runs; only the Phillies have had fewer homers from that spot in the lineup (one).

“There’s nothing [Castro] has done to be put down in the two-spot,” Sveum said. “It’s more change to get everything going. You never know. Sometimes you pick a lineup out of a hat and you win. I wasn’t going to go that far. You can do that in the American League, not the National League.”

Was he close to randomly picking a lineup?

“Not too far,” Sveum said, smiling. “You never know.”

— Carrie Muskat

5/25 Wood to sign copies of new book

Kerry Wood will sign copies of a new book, “All You Can Be: Learning and Growing Through Sports,” on May 29 at Barnes & Noble Old Orchard, Skokie, IL, 7:30-9 p.m. CT; May 30 at The Cubs Store, Wrigley Field, 45 minutes after the game; and June 29 at Costco, 2746 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago, 7-8:30 p.m.

This is Wood’s first children’s book in which he shares valuable principles he learned growing up that helped him have success in the Major Leagues. Fourth graders from Chicago Public Schools provided drawings exemplifying their own goals for the future and the illustrations are included in the book. A portion of all proceeds will help support children’s programs run by the Wood Family Foundation.

— Carrie Muskat


5/25 Lineup & extra bases – UPDATED

Starlin Castro is batting second Friday for the Cubs as they open a three-game series in Pittsburgh against the Pirates. Castro hit .335 in the No. 2 spot last year. Ryan Dempster is on the mound, looking for his first win since last August. Also, Ian Stewart was a late scratch and rookie Adrian Cardenas is starting at third base. Stewart’s left wrist is sore — it’s the same discomfort he’s battled this season. Here’s the lineup:

DeJesus RF

Castro SS

Mather CF

LaHair 1b

Soriano LF

Cardenas 3B

Barney 2B

Hill C

Dempster P

* The Cubs have lost nine in a row, and have not lost 10 straight since dropping the first 14 games of the 1997 season.

* The Cubs were 12-9 in 21 games from April 21-May 14, but are 2-11 in the last 13 games. They’ve scored 75 runs in the 15 wins, an average of five runs per win, and 80 runs in the 29 losses, for an average of 2.8 runs per game. How bad is it? The Cubs have scored in four of their last 47 innings, and they are batting .231 in the last eight games.

* Pitching matchups:

Friday: Ryan Dempster vs. A.J. Burnett

Saturday: Paul Maholm vs. Kevin Correia

Sunday: Matt Garza vs. Erik Bedard

— Carrie Muskat

5/25 Minor League report

Chris Rusin gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits over four innings in Iowa’s 7-2 loss Thursday to Tacoma. Luis Valbuena and Brett Jackson each had two hits. Jackson now is batting .235.

Dallas Beeler gave up three runs on five hits and five walks over six innings in Tennessee’s 3-2 loss to Mobile. Jim Adduci hit his fourth home run and Junior Lake had two hits.

Greg Rohan and Micah Gibbs each homered but it wasn’t enough as Daytona lost, 5-2, to St. Lucie. Ryan Searle gave up three runs on six hits over 3 2/3 innings. Rohan’s homer was his eighth and one of three hits.

Kyler Burke gave up one unearned run on two hits over six innings for his first win of the season in Peoria’s 4-3 win over Clinton. Oliver Zapata had three hits and two RBIs.

— Carrie Muskat

5/25 Makeup game vs. Reds

The Cubs-Reds game rained out in Cincinnati on May 1 has been rescheduled for 1:10 p.m. ET on Aug. 18 as part of a day-night doubleheader. The originally scheduled game will begin at 7:10 p.m. ET. Fans with tickets dated May 1 can use that same ticket at the gate for admission to the day game with no exchange necessary.

— Carrie Muskat 

5/23 Good effort ends in loss

David DeJesus never had a chance to call off Darwin Barney in the fourth inning Wednesday night. The Astros had runners at first and third with two outs when J.D. Martinez lofted a ball to right. Barney and DeJesus crashed into each other near the foul line trying to get to the ball, and tumbled. Martinez kept running and was credited with a triple, and both runners scored. DeJesus had the ball briefly in his glove but it was knocked loose.

“It was a great effort,” bench coach Jamie Quirk said of DeJesus and Barney. “If they make the play, it’s an outstanding play. It’s perfect placement on [the Astros] part. He didn’t hit it good, he hit it in the right spot, they both gave everything they have.”

Said Martinez: “I saw the right fielder running and I was like, ‘It’s going to have a chance. He’s going to have to make a nice play on it.’ I just continued to run right out of the box and was just fortunate it fell.”

DeJesus simply didn’t have time to tell Barney he had it.

“It was one of those plays that was too much in the middle of us,” Barney said. “It was placed at a point where he didn’t have a chance to call it. It’s unfortunate. My job is to go until I hear somebody call me off and that ball was put into a spot where he didn’t know he’d have a chance until he got there. He probably didn’t know he’d be able to get there.”

Barney had a bloody elbow and hip after the fall because of the rocky surface on the warning track.

“I thought he caught it,” Barney said. “I went and when I was on the ground, I thought he had it in his glove and there it was. We both did our job and it just happened to turn out that way.”

— Carrie Muskat