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Losses continue to mount for Cubs

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Updated: July 20, 2014 9:27PM



PHOENIX — If the Cubs thought it was hot over the weekend, wait till they get to August with this gutted pitching staff and the likelihood of being down a few more traded veterans by then.

“It’s just the situation we’re in as far as where we’re at as a team,” said de facto ace Jake Arrieta, who pitched well again as the Cubs lost again — this time 3-2 to an Arizona Diamondbacks team that was in last place when the weekend started with only one series sweep before taking all three from the Cubs.

“We’re well aware that trades will possibly continue to take place and guys will be shuffled around in different positions, getting experience across the board and trying to fit guys in and get them comfortable in certain situations.

“That’s just part of the game for us as a team right now.”

If nothing else, the few guys in the clubhouse who were here the last two years should be used to the Cubs’ second-half formula: make trades, plug holes, repeat.

“That doesn’t take away from our mindset of going out there and trying to win every series,” Arrieta said.

Whether three summers of amassing young talent by trading away veterans pays off in the big way the organization hopes, it doesn’t make these second-half baseball death marches any easier to stomach for players.

If it wasn’t clear July 4 when rotation workhorses Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel were traded to the Oakland Athletics, it’s starting to sink in that they face another two-month grind to stave off 100 losses.

“We just need to win games,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who homered for the third time in the series and added a health-defying catch-and-tumble into a photo well on a foul pop-up in the sixth.

‘‘We’ve just got to keep playing.”

In 13 games since The Trade, the Cubs have two wins and only three quality starts from the rotation — all three by Arrieta.

Before 2012, the Cubs, for all their history of misery, had only two 100-loss seasons, both in the 1960s.

They need 23 victories in their last 65 games to keep from producing two in three years under different managers.

“You’ve got to stay positive and you’ve got to make sure that these guys know we’re still supporting them,” first-year manager Rick Renteria said. “In terms of dealing with how it’s gone the last couple of weeks, today’s a new day.”

After the tough loss, Renteria addressed the team briefly with that message.

“I just told them to keep their heads up because we kept grinding today, and things will change,” he said.

But no amount of daily affirmation from the National League leader in optimism can make three consecutive days of blown leads against a bad team feel good — or any 2-11 stretch look positive.

As recently as July 2, the Cubs finished off their own sweep of the defending champion Red Sox in Boston in what has since become their swan song.

“It’s our job to come in every day and keep it even,” Rizzo said. “You can’t ride the highs too high, and when the lows get low, you can’t dwell on them.”

Or overcompensate. Renteria acknowledged that might be his biggest challenge as a manager the rest of this season: resisting the temptation to push too many buttons or pull too many strings.

“Sometimes you can do that,” said Renteria, whose three pitching changes in the sixth inning Friday torpedoed that game for the Cubs. “I always use the idea that just because I can doesn’t mean I should. I do try to keep myself in check a little bit. It’s very important that you don’t try to overmanage the situation. . . . Hopefully, I don’t do things rashly. I hope I’m more thoughtful than reactionary.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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