Casey Coleman's pitches were up and that meant trouble. One of the first ones he threw in the second inning Thursday was high, and it quickly sailed out of Wrigley Field.
Matt Holliday's long homer got the St. Louis Cardinals started on a five-run second and that was the beginning of a short outing for the Cubs' young right-hander in a 9-1 loss.
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"That inning every hit I gave up was a a little up," said Coleman, who's filling in with fourth and fifth starters Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner on the disabled list.
After pitching well last season when called up, Coleman has been inconsistent during this new year. He was OK in his previous start against the Reds but in trouble right away against the Cardinals.
"I feel like I'm not throwing as many strikes this year. When I need that big pitch, I haven't been able to make it," he said.
"It's tough when you tease them with one good outing and go out there and don't do as well.
Coleman, whose father and grandfather pitched in the majors, lasted only 4 1-3 innings, giving up nine hits and six runs as his ERA ballooned to 7.22. Chicago has also tried reliever James Russell as a spot starter with their rotation ailing and that didn't work, either.
Now the Cubs will give veteran Doug Davis a start this weekend against the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
"When you lose two top-notch starters, it's not an easy gap to fill," Cubs manager Mike Quade. "We'll get through this, we'll get those guys and back and be fine. ... He (Coleman) just didn't have a very good day today."
And after their biggest offensive output of the season on Tuesday night in an 11-4 victory, the Cubs' offense didn't have a very good day, either, against Jaime Garcia (5-0).
They had nine hits but couldn't put together that big inning against the tough St. Louis lefty.
"You don't see the ball well off him and he is a competitor. He comes right at you. It's not like you can go up there and take pitches and hopefully he'll get himself into trouble," said Chicago's Jeff Baker, who made a rare start in right field and had three hits.
"He doesn't do that."
The Cubs have struggled all season with runners in scoring position. They bunched three straight singles for their only run in the sixth but then had the bases loaded with one out before Garcia escaped.
"You start pressing on it, 'Oh, you know we got to do a better job with runners in scoring position' and it becomes its own monster," Baker said. "Hopefully this will be just a small blip."
The Cubs are 16-20 after back-to-back losing series against the Reds and Cardinals with the Giants coming to town. Still they're only five games out of first.
"This is a tough stretch and we're trying to weather the storm and stay in this thing and so far we have," Quade said.
"The frustration for me is that we're inconsistent. ... I'm real glad we're four or five back 35 or 40 games in and not 10 back."
NOTES: Quade said he was almost mad at himself because he didn't go to the plate for the pre-game lineup card presentation and witness up-close Kyle Lohse's impersonation of Cards manager Tony La Russa, who is not with the team because of a case of shingles. Bench coach Pat Listach represented the Cubs. "It shocked me to death," Quade said. "Was that unbelievable or what? Looked just like him didn't it?"