SAN DIEGO -- The Cubs loaded the bases in the first inning on Monday, and Jason Heyward delivered a two-run single. It was their first run-scoring hit that wasn't a home run in more than one week. It also was the only one in a 5-2 loss to the Padres.
Kyle Hendricks cruised through the first three innings, then the Padres loaded the bases in the fourth. Hunter Renfroe connected on a fastball that Hendricks left over the plate for a grand slam. The Cubs need to find some fastballs of their own.
The Cubs now are 2-for-36 with runners in scoring position in their last seven games, and rank last in the National League in that category. They've lost four in a row for the third time this season. One year ago on Memorial Day, the Cubs had a 6 1/2-game lead in the NL Central. This year, they are tied for second place, 1 1/2 games back.
"We need to slow the game down some," Heyward said, noting that it's tough when they're facing pitchers who they haven't seen. "Today was a day, Kyle got in a tough spot, bases loaded there, and he was forced to throw the ball over the plate, and [Renfroe] didn't miss the pitch."
Hendricks had retired 10 in a row before Yangervis Solarte reached on an infield single with one out in the fourth. The Padres then loaded the bases to set up Renfroe's slam.
"I felt pretty good," Hendricks said. "There was just some bad contact that found some holes and one pitch. I tried to run a fastball in there and it kind of straightened out on me. That's how it goes. We have to stick with what we're doing, keep it simple and focus on pitch to pitch."
Hendricks said it's up to the Cubs' starting pitchers to get the team back on track.
"We're the ones with the ball in our hands, we're the ones who have to stop it," Hendricks said. "If we throw up zeros, we have a good chance of winning. Giving up four, five [runs] in a game is not what we have to be doing right now."
Maddon sees the hitters trying to do too much.
"The thing is to not try to hit homers and take what they give you," Maddon said. "You've got to convince them to do it. It's not complicated. You can see the big swings, coming out of our zone, when a single will do. We have to keep talking, and you have to use the velvet hammer as opposed to a real one, otherwise you have no chance whatsoever."
What can Maddon do now?
"I think we've tried everything possible," he said. "These are our players. I have all the faith in the world. We're coming off a 7-2 homestand. Everybody loved us a couple days ago. All of a sudden we've had a tough time scoring runs on the road, and we just have to do better."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.