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updated: 5/13/2014 12:31 AM

Quality starts but not quality finishes for Cubs

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  • The Cubs' Junior Lake watches his 3-run homer as Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina looks on in the second inning Monday night. Lake finished with 6 RBI.

      The Cubs' Junior Lake watches his 3-run homer as Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina looks on in the second inning Monday night. Lake finished with 6 RBI.
    Associated Press

 
 

The 2014 Chicago Cubs aren't a good team by any stretch. Their 13-24 record suggests they're pretty bad at this point.

But this bunch of Cubs is epically bad at one thing: wasting quality starts by their pitchers.

They didn't get a quality start Monday night from Travis Wood against the Cardinals, but they hardly needed one in a rollicking 17-5 victory at Busch Stadium. The Cubs enjoyed season highs in runs and hits (20) while getting home runs from Mike Olt and Junior Lake, who had 6 RBI.

Wood didn't do enough to get a quality start (at least 6 innings pitched and 3 or fewer earned runs allowed) as he gave up 5 runs (4 earned) over 6 innings.

Not taking advantage of quality starts has been an interesting phenomenon for the Cubs. They have lost each of their previous six games in which their pitcher turned in a quality start.

Included in that stretch was a 9-inning, no-run performance by Jeff Samardzija, a 7-inning, 1-run outing by Edwin Jackson and 6 more shutout innings by Samardzija.

Know this about quality starts: Teams that get them usually win. The 2012 Cubs, who lost 101 games, had a record of 42-31 when getting a quality start, and even that poor club lost no more than four in a row when getting a quality start.

Last year's team, which lost 96 games, went 52-39 when its pitchers turned in a quality start. So this trend bodes ill for the 2014 edition.

In 21 quality-start games, the team is 7-14, even as its starting pitchers have turned in a cumulative ERA of 2.06 in their quality starts. Here are recent comparisons after 21 quality-start games:

• The 2013 Cubs were 12-9 in quality start games, and the starters had an ERA of 2.01. The team's overall record after it had gotten 21 quality starts was 13-21.

• The '12 club also was 12-9 in quality-start games, with the pitchers having a sparkling 1.55 ERA in those games. The Cubs were 15-24 overall by their time they got 21 quality starts.

• Going back to 2011, the Cubs were 14-7 in their first 21 quality-start games, with the starters putting up a 2.00 ERA in those games. The team overall was 24-36 by the time the pitchers reached 21 quality starts.

This is a trend that holds up pretty well over the years. In other words, if you get a quality start, chances are you win, no matter how bad your team.

Not this year's Cubs. No so far anyway. Usually, when a team loses when it gets a quality start, one of two things happen: the offense didn't hit or the bullpen blew up.

But a rare offensive explosion Monday overrode pretty much everything. The Cubs scored 4 runs in the first inning, 2 coming in on Olt's homer. They scored 3 more in the second on Lake's homer. Wood allowed the Cardinals to come within 9-5 in the fifth, but he was able to ride it out, quality start or not.

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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