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posted: 9/7/2012 12:01 AM

Cubs look like sure bet to lose 100 games

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  • Things have not been easy for manager Dale Sveum and the Cubs this season.

    Things have not been easy for manager Dale Sveum and the Cubs this season.
    Associated Press


The road to 100 losses for the Cubs is paved with good intentions.

But it is a road to 100 losses, and the Cubs are skidding along -- downhill and on a sheet of ice.

After Thursday night's 9-2 loss to the Washington Nationals, the Cubs had a record of 51-86, putting them on pace to finish the season 60-102. The franchise record for losses is 103, set first in 1962 and done again in 1966.

There are a number of reasons the century mark in losses will be hard to avoid. Here are a few of them:

The schedule:

The Cubs head to Pittsburgh to take on the wild-card contending Pirates for three this weekend. They get somewhat of a "break" early next week, when they play the Astros (42-95), but there are no guarantees in Houston.

Then it's a tough homestand with three contending NL Central teams: the Pirates, the first-place Reds and the Cardinals.

The final road trip of the season takes the Cubs to Colorado and Arizona, where the Cubs' rookie-laden pitching staff could endure nightmares. Then it's home to finish the season against the Astros.

I'm hard pressed to find 12 wins in that stretch, but you never know.

The rotation:

Outside of Jeff Samardzija, there's not much to depend on in the starting rotation. Beginning Aug. 29, the Cubs have had 2 quality starts, both by Samardzija, and the Cubs lost both of those games, scoring a grand total of 2 runs.

Chris Volstad's mini two-game winning "streak" was snapped Wednesday in Washington, as he gave up 9 hits, 5 runs and 3 homers in 5 innings. Travis Wood, who starts Friday night's series opener in Pittsburgh, has not won a decision since July 6.

Rookie Chris Rusin was shelled in his Tuesday start, and Justin Germano, who started Thursday, has 1 quality starts and 7 non-quality starts.

If the Cubs end up shutting down Samardzija after he reaches an innings limit, not only will the Cubs have a chance to finish with 100 losses, they'll have a shot at 103 or worse.

Developing in the bigs:

Manager Dale Sveum admitted Wednesday the Cubs are doing a lot of player development at the big-league level.

"It's probably safe to say that, no question about it," Sveum told reporters. "If we were in the situation the Nationals are in, we wouldn't be developing at the big-league level."

In Tuesday night's 11-5 loss, the Cubs used seven rookie pitchers, including Rusin, who was making only his second big-league start, and reliever Jaye Chapman, who made his big-league debut.

Rafael Dolis and Alberto Cabrera have battled control issues all year. Blake Parker spent most of the season on the disabled list.

Rookie catchers Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger are holding their own behind the plate, but the amount of young pitchers on the staff is making it doubly hard.

Third baseman Josh Vitters did not start Thursday. He was 0-for-25 over his last 10 games, as his batting average sank to .076. Center fielder Brett Jackson has had his moments, but he was 0-for-14 heading into Thursday, with his average falling to .182.

Yes, the intentions of Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are good: Build a team like the Nationals.

But it's going to take time, and the road is going to be rough along the way.

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