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updated: 8/4/2013 6:46 PM

Cubs' offense keeps coming up empty

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  • Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Villanueva allowed only 1 run and 2 hits in 6 innings Sunday but still took the loss against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field.

      Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Villanueva allowed only 1 run and 2 hits in 6 innings Sunday but still took the loss against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Cubs came up with a fistful of nothing, both Sunday and over the last week on what turned out to be a disastrous homestand.

How's this for futility? The Los Angeles Dodgers managed just 2 hits off Cubs pitching Sunday but still walked out of Wrigley Field with a 1-0 victory and a four-game sweep.

The Cubs have been shut out two straight games, and they have not scored since the fourth inning of Friday's 6-2 loss. They ended their eight-game homestand with a 1-7 record.

"It's tough," said pitcher Carlos Villanueva, who started Sunday and went 6 innings, giving up both Dodgers hits and 1 run. "We know we have a young team. You never want to go through this.

"But hopefully the struggles that we're having now, especially our younger players, we'll learn from it. You want to learn from it watching other guys go through it, but when it happens to you, obviously it's a little tougher to digest.

"Obviously, we know where we are right now as a team. We know we're building for the future. We can learn from this and hopefully finish strong and hopefully carry this into next year."

The Cubs had been hoping to build off a 6-4 road trip coming out of the all-star break and avoid the downward spiral they hit in the second half last year, when they wound up losing 101 games.

Just Friday, team president Theo Epstein said he was feeling good about the July the Cubs had, with a winning record on the field and the acquisition of many young players through trades and signing draft picks and international free agents.

A similar finish to 2012 shouldn't happen this year. The Cubs have a more representative major-league pitching rotation. It'll be up to veterans such as Villanueva and others to keep the kids from getting discouraged.

"Oh, yeah, it's big," Villanueva said. "For me, when I played with (closer) Trevor Hoffman (in Milwaukee), he had an outstanding year his first year, and he had a tough year his last year.

"A guy like that, even though he was the major-league leader in saves at the time, he never let down. He came to work every day. He battled. He was the same guy, whether he was doing well or not.

"I learned from that. Hopefully, if I can help somebody out now, then I'm all for it. I think it's very important. I think that's why Theo and Co. brought in veteran guys.

"We have to be an example. We have to show guys that it happens. You still have to come out tomorrow and play. You have to keep your head up no matter what happens.

"That's easier said than done. Guys are struggling, but it's not going to change, and nobody's going to feel sorry for you."

One of those young guys who had a tough day was first baseman Anthony Rizzo. He struck out in the seventh inning on a ball that hit him, and looked like he was ready to slam his bat to the ground. In the next inning, he dropped a popup for an error.

"Yeah, especially after coming off a good road trip like we did, we just have to play better, especially at home," Rizzo said. "We gave ourselves opportunities today. We just didn't come through.

"You just got to keep it loose, have fun together. Hopefully everyone learns that you learn every day in this game, and you have to learn from your mistakes and what you did wrong and why you did wrong and just keep going, moving forward."

The Cubs were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position Sunday, and they stranded nine baserunners. Even though regulars Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo did not start, manager Dale Sveum said the team just needs to keep grinding at-bats.

"We got shut out three times in seven games at home and scored 2 in another one," said Sveum, whose team is 49-62. The Cubs had 34 hits and 6 runs in the four games against the Dodgers. "It's very difficult, obviously, to win, unless you're scoring runs."

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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