Bats slumber, frustration boils over as Cubs tumble to 3-9
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com April 18, 2012 10:30PM
Chicago Cubs v Miami Marlins
Updated: May 21, 2012 8:48AM
MIAMI — After disappearing into the tunnel behind the Cubs’ dugout in the sixth inning Wednesday night, pitcher Matt Garza quickly returned just long enough to grab a bat and head back down the stairs and out of sight.
Without surveillance video immediately available, about the only thing anybody could say with confidence is that bat did more damage in a matter of minutes than the rest of the Cubs’ bats have done in close to two weeks.
“It’s tough for these starting pitchers to know they have to be perfect all the time,’’ manager Dale Sveum said after the Miami Marlins sent the Cubs to a 9-1 loss, assuring a sixth consecutive lost series dating to last season.
Not that Garza was close to perfect in a start that lasted two batters into the sixth inning and that included two-run homers allowed to Donnie Murphy and Hanley Ramirez. He left trailing 5-0.
“But the bottom line,’’ Sveum said, “is when our starting pitching is pitching that good and keeping us in ballgames, we have to be able to keep ourselves in ballgames and score runs.
“If that’s as bad as Garza’s going to be, giving up five runs in 51/3 or whatever it was, it’d be nice to have three runs and be 5-3.’’
In fact, for all the talk of the new Marlins Park being a tough place to hit, much less to hit the ball out of the park, that early stadium scouting report has applied to only one of the teams during the first two games of this series.
In four games at the new park before the Cubs got to town, the Marlins had lit up their tacky $2.5-million fish/flamingo lights and water-shooting sculpture with only two home runs — and three in two games since the Cubs got to town.
For the Cubs, the problems have spanned almost all of this 3-9 start that’s already much worse than how they started either of their fifth-place seasons the last two years.
They’re averaging 2.4 runs in their nine losses. Since back-to-back wins over Milwaukee and St. Louis by 8-0 and 9-5 scores last week, they’ve been outscored 29-7.
“I’m not going to say there’s not a concern when besides two games we really haven’t put together a whole lot of runs,’’ Sveum said. “We’re not hitting the ball out of the ballpark. Not big slugging percentage. It’s tough to score runs when you don’t have slugging percentage and you’re not getting people on base.’’
The Cubs rank last in the majors with five home runs. And with the two allowed Wednesday, the staff tied Milwaukee for most allowed (14) in the National League.
Garza didn’t make excuses.
“It is what it is, man,’’ he said, adding he doesn’t take any extra pressure to the mound to “be perfect’’ because of the team’s scoring troubles.
“If I start being perfect, it’s going to turn into one big old circus, trying to dot every ‘i’ and cross ever ‘t,’ ’’ he said. “So I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing my whole career and that’s keep going out for the next one.’’
It’s probably too early to start listening to some of the outside calls for guys at AAA like hot-hitting Anthony Rizzo, Tony Campana or Luis Valbuena.
Until or unless that time comes, Sveum will look for ways to squeeze more out of his roster of hitters.
“Yeah, you can do a lot of things. Is it going to make a difference?’’ he said. “You mix and match and change a few things and see what happens. It doesn’t always work.
“[Thursday’s] going to be our normal lineup, but I might switch things around a little bit.’’
Until then, there’s always the option of handing a bat to Garza on the way to the tunnel.
“He was going to get some swings down in the tunnel there,’’ Sveum said.
Swings? At baseballs?
“Yeah,’’ Sveum said, starting to smile. “They got a tee and a net down there.’’