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Cubs’ frustration grows as lack of timely hitting earns another loss

Updated: May 15, 2014 10:40PM

ST. LOUIS — In the end, there wasn’t much satisfaction in the Cubs’ latest visit to Busch Stadium.

Despite outhitting the St. Louis Cardinals 8-6 on Thursday, they lost another game, 5-3.

And despite outscoring the Cardinals 23-14 over four days (including one rainout), the Cubs lost another series, two games to one.

They remain stuck on a grand total of one series victory since last Sept. 9-11. This endlessly struggling team is 2-9 since a three-game winning streak ended May 3 and, at 13-26 overall, has matched the club’s worst record after 39 games in a dozen years.

That crazy-fun 17-5 bashing of the Cardinals in the opener of the series? Well, it didn’t carry over.

“They’ve got a great pitching staff,” said right fielder Nate Schierholtz, whose pinch-hit ground out with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth ended the Cubs’ final threat. “It’s not every night you’re going to score 17 runs against a staff like they have.”

No, it certainly isn’t. Sometimes, all it takes is a timely hit or two to turn a tight, low-scoring game into something worth celebrating. The Cubs almost made that happen in the middle game of the series when they got a man home in the top of the ninth to force extra innings, but the bats cooled from there and the Cardinals eventually won it in the 12th.

The Cubs — one of baseball’s worst-hitting teams with runners in scoring position — had their chances Thursday but failed to get the ball out of the infield.

In the fourth inning, after a two-run homer by Starlin Castro made it 4-2, Cardinals starter Michael Wacha allowed two more batters to reach base before striking out catcher John Baker and pitcher Jason Hammel to end the threat.

Two innings later, one-out singles by Luis Valbuena and Junior Lake set up rookie slugger Mike Olt for a big moment. Instead, Olt grounded into a double play.

By the time Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal broke Schierholtz’s bat on that eighth-inning ground out, the Cubs’ fate seemed pretty well sealed.

“I know that was the biggest at-bat of the game,” said Schierholtz, who was unable to keep his batting average from dipping back below .200. “I had a chance to tie the game up, and it’s frustrating.”

Frustration is going 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and leaving eight men on base, as the Cubs did. Frustration is falling to 3-16 in games decided by two runs or fewer. Frustration is having a ­decent run differential of minus-7 on the season yet having the worst winning percentage (.333) in the major leagues.

“It’s not like we’re just laying down,” said Hammel, who failed, for the first time in eight outings as a Cub, to deliver a quality start.

Wacha (3-3) went seven strong innings for the victory. Hammel (4-2) allowed five earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, with the Cardinals jumping on him for four runs in the third.

“It’s very frustrating,” Hammel said.

There’s that word again.

The Cubs open a series Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field.


Twitter: @slgreenberg

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