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updated: 5/13/2011 12:23 AM

Cubs not answering the call

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  • Tyler Greene, left, slides safely behind Welington Castillo to score on an RBI single by Jon Jay during the seventh inning of the Cardinals' victory over the Cubs on Thursday at Wrigley Field.

      Tyler Greene, left, slides safely behind Welington Castillo to score on an RBI single by Jon Jay during the seventh inning of the Cardinals' victory over the Cubs on Thursday at Wrigley Field.
    Associated Press

  • St. Louis Cardinals' Jon Jay hits a two-run double off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Casey Coleman, scoring Yadier Molina and Tyler Greene, during the second inning of a baseball game, Thursday, May 12, 2011, in Chicago.

      St. Louis Cardinals' Jon Jay hits a two-run double off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Casey Coleman, scoring Yadier Molina and Tyler Greene, during the second inning of a baseball game, Thursday, May 12, 2011, in Chicago.

  • St. Louis Cardinals' Tyler Greene, right, slides safely behind Chicago Cubs catcher Welington Castillo off an RBI single by St. Louis Cardinals' Jon Jay and a throw from center fielder Marlon Byrd during the seventh inning of a baseball game Thursday, May 12, 2011 in Chicago.

      St. Louis Cardinals' Tyler Greene, right, slides safely behind Chicago Cubs catcher Welington Castillo off an RBI single by St. Louis Cardinals' Jon Jay and a throw from center fielder Marlon Byrd during the seventh inning of a baseball game Thursday, May 12, 2011 in Chicago.

 
 

The Cubs have been tested. They've been found wanting.

And there's more to come with the defending world-champion San Francisco Giants coming to Wrigley Field on Friday.

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Thursday's 9-1 loss to the Cardinals -- and the game wasn't as close as the score indicates -- was the Cubs' fourth in six games against the best in the National League Central, the Cardinals and Reds.

Yes, the Cubs have pretty much hung with these teams, except for Thursday, but as we mentioned the other day, they've been just good enough to lose.

"We've just got to get some guys rolling together," said Jeff Baker, who played right field and went 3-for-4. "We have some guys rolling. It's not like we're rolling back to back to back. It's one of those things. It's going to turn. ... (It's),'Oh, we've got to start doing a better job with runners in scoring position,' and it becomes its own monster."

We'll get to the hitting.

Let's take a look at the pitching first. Casey Coleman (1-3, 7.22 ERA) was knocked around for 9 hits and 6 runs in 4 innings by the Cardinals, who put the game away early with 5 in the second.

Coleman and James Russell were forced into the rotation because of injuries to Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner. In 10 games started by those two pitchers (who have a combined 8.16 ERA in their starts), the Cubs are 2-8.

Coleman, a finesse and command pitcher, got the ball up Thursday and paid. He also walked four and struck out none.

"Command is so important for him," said manager Mike Quade, whose team is 16-20. "It's his whole game, changing speeds and everything else. He's another guy who just can't get away with the ball up at that velocity. His sinker is huge. It's fun to watch when he's locked in. It's a heck of a battle for him when he's not."

Coleman had a nice finish to 2010, but he's turned in only 1 quality start this year.

"I feel like I'm not throwing as many strikes this year; I'm falling behind guys," he said. "When I need that big pitch, I haven't been able to make it."

For about half of this homestand, the weather has been conducive to hitting, but aside from Wednesday night's 11-run outburst, the Cubs haven't been able to do anything with it.

They have not hit a home run since last Saturday. Their top home run guy, Alfonso Soriano, has 11, but he hasn't connected since May 2. Carlos Pena and Geovany Soto are next in homers with 3, but Pena just started hitting for power, and Soto is on the disabled list.

Tyler Colvin has 2 homers, but he doesn't play.

And as long as Baker referenced it, the Cubs were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position Thursday, and they stranded eight runners. For the season, they're batting .227 (70-for-309) with runners in scoring position. They've been outhomered in their own ballpark 20-11.

"Whether it's been conducive or not, we just struggle to put things together RBI wise," Quade said. "It doesn't seem to matter if we're playing on an offensive day here or somewhere else. We've talked about the long ball and extra-base hits, but just RBI singles would be fine.

"Nobody's working harder. These things will either come or they won't. I believe they will."

And how can the Cubs get over the hump and win series against the Reds and Cardinals instead of just hanging with them?

"We have to be more consistent," said center fielder Marlon Byrd. "We're not finding that yet. One out of three, especially against the Central, is not good enough. We have to start winning series. We have to play better than what we are. That consistency has to be there: hitting, pitching and defense."

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