The Chicago Cubs are doing everything they can to drop out of the NL Central race. The team they are chasing, however, just won’t let them.
The struggling Cubs hope to snap their second four-game losing streak this month on Thursday afternoon when they close a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Ted Lilly struggled through five innings and the Cubs bullpen didn’t fare any better Wednesday in a wild 11-9 loss.
Jason Kendall’s first home run with the Cubs - a two-run shot - in the fifth inning extended Chicago’s lead to 9-6. Michael Wuertz, though, promptly gave up three runs in the sixth as the Reds forged a 9-9 tie.
Kendall finished with three RBIs and Aramis Ramirez also homered for the Cubs (60-59), who have been outscored 38-19 during their four-game skid.
“We’ve been very fortunate. We haven’t really played our best baseball over the last couple of weeks but we found a way to stay in it,” Cubs outfielder Matt Murton said.
Since going a major league-best 25-10 from June 22-Aug. 1 to claim a share of the NL Central lead with Milwaukee, Chicago has lost 10 of 13.
Despite that, the Cubs remained 1 1/2 games behind the Brewers, who have lost seven of nine.
“It seems like we’re in a pennant race,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “I’m not too damn sure.”
While Chicago and Milwaukee have struggled, St. Louis has won six of seven to move within 3 1/2 games of the top spot in the division. The Cardinals and Cubs begin a key four-game series at Wrigley Field starting Friday.
Wednesday’s loss dropped Chicago to 2-8 since losing All-Star outfielder Alfonso Soriano to a strained right quadriceps on Aug. 5. He is expected to miss at least another two weeks.
“It’s hard to see the team struggling,” Soriano told the Cubs’ official Web site. “I have to work hard, I’ve never been on the (disabled list), this is the first time. I hope the team can start playing better.”
Jason Marquis (9-7, 4.18 ERA) tries to get the Cubs back into the win column. The right-hander rebounded from a poor performance with a much better showing Friday in a 6-2 victory at Colorado, allowing one unearned run and five hits over 6 2-3 innings.
Marquis had won three straight decisions at home before giving up five runs and nine hits in 5 1-3 innings on Aug. 5 in an 8-3 loss to the New York Mets. He is 6-3 with a 4.10 ERA in 13 starts this season at Wrigley.
Marquis did not receive a decision in Chicago’s 5-2 loss to Cincinnati on April 5, allowing one run and four hits in six innings. He is 4-3 with a 4.45 ERA in 11 starts against the Reds, but hasn’t beaten them since Sept. 21, 2005.
Edwin Encarnacion is 5-for-10 with two home runs against Marquis.
Cincinnati’s Bobby Livingston (3-2, 4.24) hopes to build on the most impressive performance of his young career. The rookie left-hander lasted a career-best 8 1-3 innings Saturday in an 8-3 win over San Diego, allowing three runs and four hits while walking none and striking out two.
Livingston has surrendered three runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts, with the Reds going 5-2 during that span.
This will be his first career appearance against the Cubs.