The Chicago Cubs aren’t hitting, their defense is shaky and their bullpen has struggled. All of that has their veteran manager searching for answers.
The Cubs look to avoid a third straight loss when they take on the Florida Marlins on Friday in the second game of a four-game series at Wrigley Field.
Chicago (10-11) lost 8-2 in 10 innings Thursday night and has gone 2-7 since an 8-4 start. The Cubs managed five hits - one a pinch-hit single from pitcher Carlos Zambrano - and scored their only runs on back-to-back homers from Milton Bradley and Mike Fontenot in the fifth inning.
Chicago has totaled 10 runs in its last seven losses.
“What am I supposed to do?” manager Lou Piniella said after Thursday’s loss dropped his team under .500 for the first time this season. “I can start changing lineups around and let my bench play. I can do that.”
An injury to Aramis Ramirez has played a big role in Chicago’s lack of offense, as the slugging third baseman has been out since leaving a game April 24th with a strained calf. Ramirez is hitting .358 with three home runs and 14 RBIs.
The Cubs got some good news Thursday when an MRI revealed that Ramirez doesn’t have a tear in the calf. He ran in the outfield in front of Piniella and is expected to return early this month.
Florida shortstop Alfredo Amezaga robbed Reed Johnson of a potential winning hit in the ninth to send it to extra innings Thursday, and the Marlins (14-8) scored six runs in the 10th before the Cubs recorded an out.
“When everything is going right, you’re going to take advantage,” Amezaga said.
Very little is going right for the Cubs at the moment. Their relievers allowed five earned runs Thursday for the second time in as many games, pushing the bullpen’s ERA to 5.37.
Chicago also committed multiple errors for the fourth time in nine games with a season high-tying three. Shortstop Ryan Theriot made two.
“We need to change it. We need to fix it,” first baseman Derrek Lee said. “April’s over now. It’s time to turn it around.”
Facing Florida rookie Graham Taylor could give them that opportunity. Taylor (0-1, 9.82 ERA) lasted only 3 2-3 innings in his major league debut Sunday against Philadelphia, allowing four runs, four hits and six walks in a 13-2 defeat.
The Marlins, however, have scored 19 runs in winning three straight since that loss pushed their skid to seven.
Jorge Cantu has powered the offensive surge, going 6-for-10 with three homers, 10 RBIs and six runs in the past three contests. He’s batting a team-best .365.
Cantu, however, hasn’t had much success against scheduled Chicago starter Rich Harden (2-1, 3.86).
Cantu is 1-for-9 with three strikeouts versus the right-hander, who’s posted a 3.00 ERA in winning his last two starts while striking out 17 in 12 innings.