Held to five singles, Cubs can't help Volstad

Held to five singles, Cubs can't help Volstad

Held to five singles, Cubs can't help Volstad
CHICAGO -- The Cubs entered Saturday in an offensive groove, having knocked out at least 10 hits in three straight games for the first time this season.

Dodgers left-hander Chris Capuano put an end to that.

Capuano held the Cubs to three hits in seven shutout innings as the Cubs lost to the Dodgers, 5-1, on Saturday at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs were Capuano's latest victim during a season he's started with a 4-0 record and a 2.21 ERA. Capuano's dominance of the Cubs was no surprise, as the lefty improved to 9-3 with a 3.35 ERA in 15 career games (13 starts) against them.

"He throws a fastball and changeup and a little of a breaking ball," Cubs outfielder Alfonso Soriano said. "He knows how to pitch. I think that's what's most important. He knows what he's doing on the mound, and I think that's why he did a very good job against us today."

Capuano struck out seven and walked two, throwing 70 of his 100 pitches for strikes.

"He's able to spot up his fastball inside on the righties late in the count, and his changeup -- he's just had a great changeup all season, and he had it again today," said Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who was the Brewers' hitting coach in Milwaukee when Capuano was there. "Keeping it down, he's not hanging anything. He's just been consistent so far. He's been pretty impressive."

Shortstop Starlin Castro had three of the Chicago's five hits, all of which were singles. Until Ian Stewart's RBI single in the ninth, the Cubs didn't mount a serious threat past the opening inning.

Chicago's David DeJesus led off the bottom of the first with a high popup to the left side of the infield that caused confusion between shortstop Dee Gordon and third baseman Jerry Hairston, as Gordon reached above Hairston for the ball, which fell and allowed DeJesus to reach base. Castro singled and Bryan LaHair walked to load the bases with one out, but Soriano and Stewart each struck out looking.

"I was pumped up to get that last out -- it helped the momentum swing our way," Capuano said.

The Dodgers scored all of the runs they needed the next half-inning, taking advantage of yet another costly frame charged to Cubs right-hander Chris Volstad, who is now 0-4 with a 6.55 ERA.

Volstad issued a leadoff walk to Andre Ethier in the second before Bobby Abreu singled. After Volstad got Hairston to ground out, the Cubs opted to intentionally walk first baseman James Loney to bring up the Dodgers' Nos. 8 and 9 hitters.

The move backfired, as catcher Matt Treanor hit a sacrifice fly to score Ethier and Capuano followed with a two-run double to center -- the pitcher's first hit of the season.

"He hit that ball really well -- [the score is] 3-0 instead of 1-0," Volstad said. "That was the big one."

Despite extending his scoreless-innings streak to 18 2/3, Capuano said the double was what he was most proud of.

"The first thing I did when I came in was watch my hit about 10 times," Capuano admitted.

The three-run second was the latest in a season full of big innings allowed by Volstad. The right-hander now has given up at least three runs during one inning in each of his last five starts -- Saturday's second inning, a four-run first against the Phillies, a three-run sixth against the Cardinals, a four-run first against the Reds and a four-run fourth against the Cardinals.

"He was efficient but just couldn't get the outs when he had to," Sveum said of Volstad. "When stuff starts going on, he just couldn't quite put anybody away to get out of that stuff."

That's been the trend of the season for Volstad. The right-hander is holding opposing batters to a .203 average with no one base. That average rises to .356 with runners on base and .382 with runners in scoring position.

Both Volstad and Sveum couldn't explain the vast difference in Volstad's struggles with runners on base, each seemingly trying to talk it out and come to a conclusion after Volstad's most recent loss.

"I don't know," Sveum said. "It might be as much as pitching out of the stretch for some reason, not being as effective out of the stretch. He can't keep the ball down out of the stretch. Whatever it might be, we've got to get it fixed."

Volstad is just as perplexed.

"It's probably more of an approach," Volstad said. "Just execution, basically. I don't know if that it can be mental or what. It could be mechanical, too, though.

"It's something we've got to look at, because there's obviously something going on when runners get on."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.