There is definitely some fraying around the edges -- if not the nerves -- the Cubs might want to clean up on the rest of this nine-game road trip.
They lost a tough one, 6-5 Sunday at Miller Park against the Brewers. Former Cub Casey McGehee hit a two-out, pinch home run off Kerry Wood in the bottom of the eighth after Wood opened the inning by walking Yuniesky Betancourt.
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Things got more interesting in the ninth inning when Marlon Byrd led off with a single to right field. With Aramis Ramirez batting, Byrd was caught trying to steal second base.
Ramirez struck out, and Carlos Pena flied out to end the game.
Manager Mike Quade was asked about the attempted steal.
"There was a miscommunication there; we have to deal with that tomorrow," said Quade, whose team lost two of three to the Brewers to fall to 4-5. "Make sure I didn't screw the (darn) thing up, but I might have. I didn't care for that situation to be running."
Byrd instructed reporters to "ask me a question; don't tell me what Q said."
Was there a miscommunication?
"No," Byrd replied. "I looked at the third base coach."
What did Byrd see? Was there a steal sign on as far as Byrd saw it?
"Did I go?" he asked in return. "OK. Did I go?"
Byrd asked again if he went before declaring "end of question" and finally shutting down the interview session.
"Did you see me steal and get thrown out?" he said. "Done. Next question."
The Cubs had bigger problems than that all day in a game started by Casey Coleman, one of two youngsters they'll count on while Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner are on the disabled list.
Let's start with runners left on base and the Cubs' lack of hitting with runners in scoring position. The Cubs stranded nine runners and went 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position.
If not for an inning-ending double play in the eighth and Byrd's caught-stealing in the ninth, they might have left runners on base every inning.
They managed to score twice in the first inning, but they had chances to blow things open several times against Brewers starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo. But after three innings, the game was tied at 4-4.
"... Looking for a knockout punch all day long offensively," Quade said. "We caused all sorts of havoc and came away with 4. Probably could have come away with some more. We're not giving ourselves much room for error. What is this, eight straight, nine straight tight ballgames? It's tough. You need to add on when you can. When you've got a guy like Gallardo on the ropes, you need to put him away. It ain't that easy, but yeah, we had plenty of chances."
Actually, the Brewers blanked the Cubs 6-0 Saturday night, but Quade's point is well taken. The bullpen could use a little breathing room, but hitters such as Geovany Soto (.207), Carlos Pena (.190) and Tyler Colvin (.130) are off to slow starts.
Coleman gave the Cubs about what they had expected, throwing 81 pitches over 5 innings.
"It was a lot of fun, but mis-execute a few pitches, and they can hurt you, any of them in that lineup," said Coleman, who yielded a 2-run homer to Prince Fielder in the first and a 2-run shot to Ryan Braun in the third.
Wood was more upset with the walk than the homer to McGehee.
"That's a prime example of why you can't walk guys late in the game," he said. "Home runs happen. You tip your hat when a guy's going to take a pitch like that and hit it the other way. You can't walk guys late in the game. That's why."
But Quade probably summed it up best: "It's a lot easier on everybody if we can find a way to give ourselves a cushion of more than a run," he said.