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Cubs drop two to Giants, enter ugly area with failure to win 3 straight

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Updated: October 4, 2011 12:35AM

They still talk about making a run, still talk about getting healthy, about chasing .500. After that, who knows?

But as this never-quite-there Cubs season slips into July, they’re closer to catching a piece of ignominious club history than catching, say, the fourth-place Cincinnati Reds, to say nothing of reaching .500.

In fact, the doubleheader Tuesday against the San Francisco
Giants at Wrigley Field offered a one-day glimpse into the Cubs’ biggest flaw this season and the almost-impossible consequence it has wrought. With a 13-7 loss in the opener, the Cubs assured
they’ll reach the halfway mark of the season — 81 games today — without so much as a three-game winning streak, becoming only the third Cubs team in more than 130 years of franchise history to manage that and the first since 1966.

‘‘If you would have told us at the beginning of the season that we would have gone this long into the season without winning three [consecutive] games, I don’t think anyone would have thought that would have been a reality,’’ veteran outfielder Reed Johnson said.

Not even the most pessimistic Cubs basher could have predicted such a rarity.

In fact, with the Cubs’ 6-3 loss in the second game Tuesday night, they’re just the fourth Cubs team to get to July  1 without a three-game streak and the first since 1974, when Bill Bonham led the league with 22 losses and Steve Stone joined the Cubs in the Ron Santo trade.

‘‘That’s been tough,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘But it’s obviously hard to get anything going at the beginning of the season when Randy [Wells] and [Andrew] Cashner were both out and you’re having to insert [Casey] Coleman and [reliever James] Russell, whose arm wasn’t ready to be stretched out. When you have key injuries like that to the pitching staff, it’s really hard to sustain any type of winning streak.’’

Case in point: Game 1 on Tuesday, when veteran Doug Davis — signed in April to compensate for lost depth — got pounded by one of the worst lineups in the majors on a day his team scored seven runs.

‘‘I really have no excuses,’’ said Davis, who dropped to 1-7. ‘‘They’re a pitchable team. I think there’s holes in everyone’s swings. If you’re able to execute, you can be successful against this team.’’

But the seasonlong, season-crippling problem at the back end of the rotation extends far beyond this pitcher on this day.

‘‘We haven’t done a very good job out of the 4 or 5 spot, for sure,’’ manager Mike Quade said.

As Rodrigo Lopez took the mound for Game 2 as the Cubs’ ‘‘sixth starter,’’ the six pitchers filling the 4-5 spots this season have gone a combined 4-18 with a 6.98 ERA. The Cubs are 8-23 in those 31 games.

And look no further than that for the lack of a three-game streak.

If the baseball proverb is true about an ace’s value in keeping a team out of losing streaks, then the reverse would seem to follow: lack of quality starting depth keeping a team out of winning streaks.

Especially when the top three of Ryan Dempster (5-6, 5.31 ERA), Carlos Zambrano (6-4, 4.38) and Matt Garza (4-6, 4.07) have had their own issues this season, too.

In all, the Cubs have had the worst starting-rotation ERA in the majors since April, and the ERA of the pitching staff overall dropped to the bottom last month and remains there now.

‘‘It’s tough when you have injuries like that,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘But that’s kind of the hand we’re dealt, and we have to find a way to work through that.’’

Meanwhile, if there’s something to look forward to, history says you can count on a winning streak coming. The Cubs never have gone a season without one.

In fact, they waited until June 20
for their first one in 1943, then reeled off 11 more that season — even though they still finished with a losing record.

‘‘Hopefully, that’s the case,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘With the injuries in the division in general . . . if there’s anywhere we’ve got a chance to make a comeback, it’s this one.’’

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