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Cubs GM blames bullpen, so-so offense for failures

Chicago Cubs Executive Vice-President General Manager Jed Hoyer introduces newest member Cubs pitcher EdwJacksduring press conference Wednesday January 2 2013

Chicago Cubs Executive Vice-President and General Manager Jed Hoyer introduces the newest member of the Cubs, pitcher Edwin Jackson during a press conference Wednesday January 2, 2013 at Wrigley Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 8, 2013 6:37AM

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer sees the same thing everyone else has seen in his team: good starting pitching and not enough of the other elements of good baseball.

‘‘Obviously, the record is what it is,’’ he said Monday. ‘‘There’s no hiding from it. We’ve done some things really well. Our starting pitching has been very good. I think we have a handful of hitters who are getting on base and had a good season so far.

‘‘But as a team, the offense hasn’t been able to spread games out at all. And our bullpen has been shaky. That’s a bad combination.’’

The offense erupted on Monday night, and the Cubs used a five-run fifth to spark a 9-2 victory over the Texas Rangers at Wrigley Field. Starter Scott Feldman (3-3) cruised against his former team until a hand cramp forced his exit in the top of the eighth.

One month into his second season with the Cubs, Hoyer spoke frankly about the team’s failings, from the bullpen to the defense to the offense’s inability to produce enough to turn close games into victories.

‘‘I think 20 of our [first] 31 games have been one- or two-run games, and with that, you should have a decent record. But we don’t because we’ve been struggling with winning those games in part because of the bullpen struggles and because we don’t turn that 3-1 game into a 5-1 game.

‘‘We’re going to have to learn how to do that as a team.’’

The Cubs have lost 12 of the 20 games decided by two runs or fewer. They were 4-7 in one-run games. They were 9-17 in games decided by three or fewer runs.

‘‘You could say our record is misleading because of our starting pitching, but I don’t think it is,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘We just need to get better at winning games.’’

Cubs starters had the fourth-best ERA (3.61) in the National League. But they were 6-16 collectively.

The bullpen ERA was a lofty 4.71, and relievers had saved only half of the team’s 16 opportunities.

Hoyer speaks as much for team president Theo Epstein as himself. He said they’ve tried not to ‘‘overreact to individual games.’’

‘‘That’s like checking your stock portfolio every day going up and down,’’ Hoyer said. ‘‘You have to realize if you’re winning six out of 10 as a team, you’re winning 98 games [in the season].

‘‘We have to stay on an even keel, but we’ve had a pattern now of not winning those close games. And the reason is very clear — it’s that the bullpen has struggled and the offense hasn’t pulled away.

‘‘The best teams blow [other] teams out. To our credit, we’ve only been blown out once. To our detriment, we have zero blowouts on our side of the ledger.’’

Hoyer was supportive of struggling pitchers Edwin Jackson (0-5) and Carlos Marmol but emphasized that they must produce.

‘‘[Jackson] has had a really long track record,’’ Hoyer said, ‘‘and consistency has been one of his traits over his career. At the same time, he needs to pitch better and help his team, and he knows it.’’

Hoyer called Marmol ‘‘a lightning rod’’ for fans’ frustrations.

‘‘Carlos has had a really long track record of success here,’’ Hoyer said.

‘‘This team has expected a lot out of him for a lot of years and ridden him really hard. It’s taken its toll. His fastball and slider aren’t quite what they used to be in part because he’s been durable and ridden hard by a number of managers here. He’s struggled in save appearances, and it’s been frustrating, but I do think he’s a lightning rod here, and people forget how much he’s pitched here and how well he’s pitched here at times.’’

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