The Chicago Cubs rode a high-powered lineup to a second consecutive NL Central title last season. This year, a sputtering offense has them trailing three teams in the division.
The Cubs again look to snap out of their funk and avoid losing for the ninth time in 11 road games Sunday in the finale of a three-game set against the Cincinnati Reds.
After winning 2-1 Friday, Chicago (27-26) lost 4-3 in 11 innings Saturday - its third extra-inning game in its last four. The Cubs dropped 4 1/2 games back of division-leading Milwaukee and trail third-place Cincinnati (29-26) by one.
“Fontenot had a rough night over there,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “Since Ramirez went down, that’s been a big problem for us - a big problem.”
Ramirez dislocated his left shoulder in Milwaukee on May 8 and is likely out until mid-July. He was batting .364 with four home runs and 16 RBIs at the time of his injury and Chicago’s offense is struggling without him.
The Cubs, who led the NL with 855 runs last season have plated the fourth-fewest in the league this year with just 231. They’re 0 for 17 with runners in scoring position in the first two games of this series and have scored only 18 runs in their last 10 away from Wrigley Field - winning only two.
“Sometimes you want to do too much up there, or want to look for that perfect pitch,” Soto told the Cubs’ official Web site. “Right now, it’s not going good for us, but hopefully, we can turn it around.”
Arroyo posted a 3.44 ERA in winning all three starts against the Cubs last season, and is 3-2 with a 2.27 ERA in seven career outings versus them at Great American Ball Park.
The right-hander has been outstanding in Cincinnati lately, yielding just two runs in 17 innings in winning his last two there.
On Tuesday in St. Louis, Arroyo gave up five runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-2 loss.
In his first four starts, a lack of offense - just six total runs of support - has kept him out of the win column. But on Tuesday in Atlanta, a bullpen meltdown was the culprit.
Wells didn’t allow a hit until Chipper Jones(notes) singled with two outs in the seventh. The right-hander gave up only two runs and two hits in seven innings, but Chicago ended up losing 6-5 in 12 innings.
Since making his first career start and season debut on May 8, Wells’ ERA is the fifth-best in the majors.
“You can’t pitch any better than he has,” Piniella said. “He should be 4-0.”