Cubs swept on road by all five NL West teams for first time
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com September 27, 2012 9:40PM
“There was really no life or anything,” Dale Sveum said of Chris Volstad (above). “No breaking ball or sticking to the game plan.” | Getty Images
CUBS AT D-BACKS
The facts: 8:40., CSN, 720-AM.
The starters: Travis Wood (6-12, 4.23 ERA) vs. Ian Kennedy (14-11, 4.14).
THE REST OF THE SERIES
Saturday: 7:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM. Justin Germano (2-9, 6.18) vs. Trevor Cahill (12-12, 3.86).
Sunday: 3:10 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM. Chris Rusin (1-3, 7.30) vs. Josh Collmenter (5-3, 3.80).
Updated: January 16, 2013 7:27PM
DENVER — The good news for the Cubs halfway through their final road trip of the year: They’ve taken a commanding three-game lead over the Colorado Rockies for the No. 2 pick in the draft in June.
The bad news: Just about everything else.
In their quest to avoid 100 losses this season, the Cubs’ three-game sweep at the hands of the Colorado Rockies left many wondering if they’ll be able to avoid the century mark on this trip alone.
They’ll have to avoid getting swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks, no small feat considering their 7-5 loss to the Rockies on Thursday dropped them to 0-16 in National League West ballparks this season.
For the first time in club history, the Cubs have been swept on the road by all five NL West teams. They lost all three in Phoenix in June.
‘‘Even good teams have struggled on the West Coast. That’s gone on for as long as I’ve been in the game,’’ Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. ‘‘But to not win a game, that’s something that doesn’t happen very often. And once you get to the point where you lose the [Matt] Garzas and [Jeff] Samardzijas and the [Ryan] Dempsters and [Paul] Maholms, it gets that much more difficult.’’
The last time they were in Arizona, they started three of those pitchers: Samardzija (shut down because of his workload), Maholm (traded to the Atlanta Braves) and Garza (shut down for an elbow injury).
This time around, it’s three starters with a combined 9-24 record and 5.07 ERA.
None of them have even close to the big-league tenure of Chris Volstad, who lasted only three innings Thursday and gave up all seven runs as the Cubs tied a franchise record with their 56th road loss.
Volstad (3-11) beat the Rockies last month to snap a 24-start winless streak. The loss Thursday comes at a crossroads in his career as he tries to build value into the offseason. It’s all but certain he’ll be non-tendered.
‘‘There was really no life or anything,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘No breaking balls or sticking to the game plan. He pitched a pretty good game [62/3 scoreless innings] against these guys last time, pitching glove side down and away. I don’t really know what was going on today.’’
Volstad, who said he and catcher Steve Clevenger were on the same page and game plan, said the game ‘‘kind of sums up the year.’’
That game, and all the others on the trip, also sum up the quality and depth of the Cubs’ starting pitching heading into the winter.
For now, Sveum will take consolation in the few success stories that developed this year as the team takes its lumps:
Samardzija’s breakout conversion to power-pitching starter. Improvement in his young middle infielders and catcher Welington Castillo. The big-league foothold established by first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who reached base five times Thursday, including his 15th homer in his 82nd game.
‘‘Double that, and it basically averages out to 30 and 100 [RBI] for a season. Pretty impressive for 22 years old,’’ Sveum said of Rizzo. ‘‘You have some stuff to hang your hat on next year for a full season. So that’s nice to know. You’ve got some guys that gained a lot of experience and hopefully keep gaining and get better and better.’’
NOTE: Darwin Barney tied Placido Polanco’s 2007 major-league record for a single season when he played in his 141st consecutive errorless game at second base. Polanco holds the overall record for the position of 186 games (2006-08).