Lack of offense seals Cubs' fate
Marlins take advantage to send game to extras, host to loss
CHICAGO -- Lou Piniella didn't think a team meeting was necessary but the Cubs need some kind of pep talk as they head into May.
"When you're 12th in the league in hitting and 12th in the league in pitching and 10th in the league in defense, until those numbers get better you can have all the meetings you want," Piniella said. "You can send them to a spa. We've got to get those numbers better. And we will."
Maybe turning the calendar will help. On Thursday, the Marlins took advantage of an error by shortstop Ryan Theriot to score the tie-breaking run in the 10th and Jorge Cantu added a three-run double to send the Cubs to a 8-2 defeat at Wrigley Field.
With the game tied at 2 in the Marlins' 10th, Alfredo Amezaga blooped a double to center in front of a diving Kosuke Fukudome to lead off against Aaron Heilman. Pinch-hitter Wes Helms walked, and Emilio Bonifacio then slapped the ball toward first baseman Derrek Lee. He threw to second trying to get Helms, but Theriot couldn't close his glove on the ball and Amezaga scored on the error.
Cameron Maybin bunted, and Lee retrieved the ball but no one was covering first, and Helms tallied on the infield single to make it 4-2. Jeremy Hermida walked to load the bases, and Cantu, who hit a solo homer in the seventh, cleared them with his double.
How weird are things for the Cubs? They've been playing shorthanded because of injuries, and backup catcher Koyie Hill, who started the game behind the plate, went to third base in the 10th in a double switch. It's the first time he's played any infield in the Major Leagues.
In the Cubs' 11 losses so far, they've averaged just under two runs a game. That won't get it done. In their 10 wins, they're batting .289 and averaging nearly eight runs a game.
"It's a big concern," Piniella said of the inconsistency. "It has nothing to do with patience. It has to do with base hits and putting runs on the board."
Is Piniella's patience wearing thin?
"What am I supposed to do?" Piniella said. "I can start changing lineups around and let my bench play, I can do that."
Lee could have been the hero in the ninth, coming up with a runner on second and one out, but he struck out. He's batting .189.
"I'm bad right now," Lee said. "It's really bad. I have to make some adjustments and figure out what adjustments I need to make and make them."
He's not alone. Milton Bradley is batting .118. Geovany Soto is hitting .109.
"We have to swing the bats," Lee said. "I didn't come through in big situations. It wasn't a good game -- it hasn't been good lately."
They wasted another solid pitching effort. Sean Marshall posted the 13th quality start by a Cubs pitcher in 21 games, giving up one run on Cantu's solo homer over seven innings.
"Most of the time that's good enough to win," Piniella said of Marshall's outing. "Today, it wasn't."
The Marlins rallied in the eighth against Carlos Marmol, who walked two batters to start the inning. Maybin bunted for a sacrifice, which Marmol retrieved and threw into Maybin for an error, allowing Gload to score and tie the game at 2. Marmol, who sprained his left knee Friday, walked four in one third of an inning Wednesday against Arizona.
"I feel good," Marmol said. "I don't know what happened today. I have to get back to throwing strikes. Walking people is not a good idea."
Chicago had taken a 2-0 lead on back-to-back home runs in the fifth by Bradley and Mike Fontenot. Bradley launched a 2-1 pitch from Chris Volstad leading off and Fontenot smacked Volstad's next pitch into the left-field seats as well for his fourth homer.
That was it.
"The answer," Piniella said, "is a little more production on the field. The one thing I don't want to see is players hanging their heads. I know it's a tough game to play -- I played it for a long time. You've got to fight it when you're struggling. You've got to fight it and you can't give in to it. That's something that can be said."
It hasn't helped that the Cubs have had their projected 3-4-5 combination of Lee, Bradley and Aramis Ramirez together for seven out of 21 games.
"That's the power hitters in the lineup," Alfonso Soriano said. "We have to keep fighting and play with energy and play like we're supposed to play."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.