In rebuild mode, Cubs can't keep up with Reds
Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro reacts after striking out against the Cincinnati Reds during the seventh inning of a baseball game on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)
Can it be 10 years already?
Back in late summer 2003, then-Cubs manager Dusty Baker had a warning for the St. Louis Cardinals.
"He's got a whole decade full of us coming," Baker said, referring to Cardinals pitcher Matt Morris, who got a little chirpy. "This is just the beginning. They've been beating up on us for a long time, from my understanding."
The decade has passed the Cubs by, and they've got a long way to go now to keep up with the Joneses.
And the Cardinalses. And the Redses. And the Pirateses.
Baker manages the Reds now, and Wednesday, his charges beat the Cubs 2-1 as pitcher Mike Leake outdueled hard-luck Cubs starter Travis Wood.
Cincinnati won its 12th straight at Wrigley Field, an all-time record for consecutive wins by a Cubs opponent on the North Side.
The Cubs have dropped to a low-water mark of 13 games under .500 (25-38), and worst of all, there are 99 games to go.
"I think it's going to test everyone's character that we are far out of it," said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who went 0-for-4 and is 2-for-18 on the homestand. He hasn't homered since May 18. "We obviously aren't playing very well right now. The pitchers are pitching incredible. Us hitters aren't doing anything to show for it.
"We're just going to have to have fun. You look out there, it doesn't look like anyone's having fun right now. We just need to pick each other up."
The Cardinals and Reds are 1-2 in the National League Central, and the Pirates are contenders in third place.
"There's a reason the Cardinals are in first place and 20 games over .500," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum. "They lead the league in hitting. They lead the league in pitching. They've got the least amount of errors. That's what you go for, that kind of team. They know how to hit with men in scoring position. Those are the things you're building an organization and your 25-man roster to get to. We've talked about it before, but they've done it pretty much through their minor league system."
It's going to take awhile for the Cubs to build their system. In the meantime, the pain will continue at the major-league level.
Against Leake, the Cubs managed just 3 hits, including a second-inning homer by Nate Schierholtz that put them up 1-0. The Reds tied it in the sixth, and Todd Frazier's leadoff homer against Wood in the seventh made it 2-1, sending Wood to a record of 5-5 with a solid ERA of 2.65.
"You just got to take it as it is and go out there every fifth day and give it all you got and the other four, prepare," Wood said. "We've got good guys here. We're going to come around and start scratching out wins and figuring it out."
As much as Starlin Castro (. 238 batting average) has been singled out for his slump, the Cubs aren't getting much from anybody else, including Rizzo. David DeJesus is 1-for-13 on the homestand, Darwin Barney is 2-for-22 and Luis Valbuena is 1-for-10.
"Starting pitchers pitching into the seventh inning, quality starts," Sveum said. "We're not having quality at-bats on an everyday basis with the eight guys going up there. We're not getting enough of 3, 4, 5 quality at-bats from everybody on a daily basis.
"Rizzo hasn't done anything in quite awhile, as well. Castro's probably had better at-bats than he has over the last month. We got to get these guys going, our better hitters, and we're not getting any solid contact or slugging percentage out of them at all."
As for Baker, he was vintage Dusty when asked about the Reds' winning streak at Wrigley.
"I don't know, man," he said. "Just feel fortunate that it happens when it happens."
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