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posted: 8/12/2012 6:32 PM

Cubs' offense stuck in reverse

Sveum's squad gets shut out for fourth time in 12 games

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  • Darwin Barney is unable to catch a flyball hit by Johnny Cueto during the seventh inning of the Cubs' 3-0 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday at Wrigley Field.

      Darwin Barney is unable to catch a flyball hit by Johnny Cueto during the seventh inning of the Cubs' 3-0 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday at Wrigley Field.
    Associated Press

 
 

When the Cubs lost three-fifths of their starting rotation to either trades or injury, most everybody had to figure pitching would be a problem the rest of the season.

Figure again.

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The patchwork pitching staff has performed respectably since the July 31 trading deadline, but it's the hitting that's gone south.

That's south as in Antarctica, ice-cold south.

In the 12 games beginning July 31, the Cubs have been shut out four times and outscored 60-31, including Sunday's 3-0 loss to Johnny Cueto and the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field.

It's little surprise that the Cubs are 1-11 over this stretch, and things are starting to take on an all-too-familiar look, even if a lot of the faces are different.

"We're right back in the same rut we were kind of at the beginning, the first couple months, where we just can't get anything going," said manager Dale Sveum, whose team fell to 44-69 and is on pace to lose 99 games.

The Cubs got off to a 15-32 start to the season, finishing that stretch with 12 losses in a row.

"It's tough to get things going, especially today off Cueto, one of the best starters in the game," Sveum said. "But we're not getting a whole lot going. Unfortunately, the days we did score 6 and 8 runs, we came up short in those games on the pitching side of it."

Sveum accurately pointed out that Alfonso Soriano hit the only Cubs home run of this series, and that came Thursday. But that's the only homer by a Cubs batter in the last seven games.

"They have very good pitching and a very good bullpen," Soriano said of the Reds, who got 3 straight saves from hard-throwing lefty Aroldis Chapman. "We are struggling to score some runs, but we start tomorrow another series against Houston, and hopefully we have a better chance tomorrow to win."

That's not saying a whole lot since the Astros are even more woebegone than the Cubs.

Although the Cubs have mixed some youngsters into the lineup, nobody's doing much of anything. Young veteran Starlin Castro is 7-for-43 in August. Anthony Rizzo hasn't homered in a week. Soriano said there's not much he can say to the young players.

"I think they know," he said. "They're here for one reason, to have experience. I think they know they want to learn game by game and pitch by pitch. I think that's more important."

As far as the pitching has gone, the Cubs have 6 quality starts over their last 12 games. Rookie left-hander Brooks Raley looked much steadier than last week's debut in San Diego. Against the Reds, he worked 6 innings, giving up 5 hits and 3 runs.

"You need five days between starts, and that gives you a little time to watch the older guys, see what they do and try to learn from it," said Raley. "I guess the biggest thing I saw from everybody else starting was throwing strike one, getting ahead in the count and keeping the ball down."

Sveum says there's not much he can do to shake things up in the batting order. That's already happened with the additions of rookies Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters (when he plays), so it's stay the course and hope things get better.

"I don't think there's a whole lot of switching and mixing and matching with the lineup," Sveum said. "It's kind of what it is."

And right now, it's not good.

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