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Lack of clutch hitting scuttles quality start in Cubs’ 4-3 loss

Cubs batter Travis Wood connects for two-run homer fifth inning Chicago Cubs 4-3 loss New York Mets Sunday May 19

Cubs batter Travis Wood connects for a two-run homer in the fifth inning of the Chicago Cubs 4-3 loss to the New York Mets Sunday May 19, 2013 at Wrigley Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 19, 2013 10:11PM



The Cubs’ pitching continues to be strong, with left-hander Travis Wood earning his ninth consecutive quality start Sunday at Wrigley Field. The last Cubs pitcher with such a streak was Mordecai Brown, who had 11 in a row in 1908.

But the Cubs’ hitting with runners in scoring position continues to struggle. That cost Wood in a 4-3 loss to the New York Mets, in which the Cubs went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

‘‘We had opportunities to break it open,’’ manager Dale Sveum said. ‘‘We got guys to third base. Our biggest goal going forward is getting those guys in from third.’’

The only hit in the category came from Wood, who belted his first homer of the season in the fifth inning with catcher Welington Castillo at second base after a double. It was the second homer by a Cubs starter this season (Jeff Samardzija has the other), and it gave the starting five 11 RBI. They also have five doubles.

‘‘We have some good athletes who can swing the bat, and it’s been a huge bonus,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘It’s too bad we couldn’t win it after Woody’s homer there gave us a 2-0 lead.’’

The Cubs had another homer from Ryan Sweeney leading off the sixth.

Sweeney led off the fourth with a double that he tried to stretch into a triple, but umpire Manny Gonzalez called him out. Ex-Cub Marlon Byrd made the throw from right field, his second such assist in the series.

In the first, leadoff man David DeJesus doubled and advanced to third on Starlin Castro’s fly out. But Anthony Rizzo struck out for the first time in 39 at-bats, and Nate Schierholtz grounded out.

DeJesus was at second again with one out in the fifth after Wood’s homer, and Schierholtz was at third with no outs in the sixth after Sweeney’s blast. Neither scored.

‘‘It’s tough sometimes, but everyone is trying to bring in the runs,’’ said Castro, who hit two deep flies held up by the wind. ‘‘It didn’t happen today, but we’re trying to get the job done.’’

Castillo and Wood credited Mets starter Dillon Gee, who scattered eight hits, and the relief corps. Greg Burke, Scott Rice (2-3) and Bobby Parnell (sixth save) didn’t allow a hit in the last three innings.

‘‘Today was one of those games where I was fortunate to get deep into the game, but Gee did a good job of keeping us off-balance,’’ Wood said. ‘‘That’s just good, clean baseball.’’

The Mets didn’t score against Wood until the sixth, when ­Daniel Murphy beat out a potential double play. He went to second on a wild pitch, then scored on David Wright’s two-out single.

The Mets scored again with two outs in the seventh, when Ruben Tejada blooped a single over the infield before Juan Lagares hit his first major-league homer on a 2-2 pitch.

‘‘I wish I could have that one pitch back,’’ Wood said. ‘‘That’s baseball. He was able to foul off some pitches. As soon as it left my hand, I didn’t feel good about it.’’

Murphy put the Mets ahead with a solo shot off Kyuji Fujikawa (1-1) leading off the eighth.

‘‘We’ve been pitching great, including Woody today,’’ Castillo said. ‘‘Everyone is trying to do their best with men on base. Sometimes [the opposition] makes their pitch, and that’s baseball.’’



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