Chicago dropped its 10th in a row, a 1-0 loss to Pittsburgh, on Friday. It wasn't so much that the Pirates won as the Cubs beat themselves, going 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
This is the first time they've lost 10 in a row since opening the 1997 season 0-14. It's the franchise's 15th skid of 10 games or more.
"I think the problem is that we're trying too hard," Alfonso Soriano said. "We want to have the big hit and try to make the team better and try to win. We have to be more relaxed and let it happen.
"This game is not too easy, but sometimes we make it harder. I think we're making it harder, because we're trying too hard. We have to play one at-bat every pitch and not try to do too much. I think now everybody is trying to do too much because we're struggling offensively."
How bad is it? The Cubs have scored in only four of the last 56 innings.
"You always say [that] even great teams have a six- to 10-game losing streak in the course of a year," Sveum said. "Obviously, we've got to get a lot of things fixed -- we've got to score runs and be better in the bullpen and things like that. You have to win one before you do anything."
Ryan Dempster (0-3) would probably settle for a tie, as he is now winless in his last 17 starts, dating back to Aug. 11.
"It's hard for us," Dempster said. "Ten games in a row is not a lot of fun. It doesn't make coming to the ballpark fun. We've just got to fight through it. It happens to some really good teams sometimes, and it happens to a lot of teams. You go through losing streaks, and that's when you find out a lot about yourself and have to continue to battle and work hard."
Dempster got better as the game progressed, finishing with six strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings, but a missed fielding play in the second may have changed things. Pedro Alvarez singled to lead off the inning, and one out later, Matt Hague hit a comebacker to Dempster, who looked at second but threw to first for one out. Rod Barajas then delivered an RBI single.
"I felt if I would have fielded a ground ball and turned a double play, we'd still be playing now," Dempster said. "I field my position and turn two, and they don't score, it's a different ballgame."
Said Sveum: "I think it would have been a fairly easy double play if he caught it and threw it. I think it would have been a routine double play."
Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett (3-2) threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up six hits and striking out six. The Cubs now have scored two runs off a starting pitcher in the last six games, a total of 37 2/3 innings.
"It's unbelievable," Sveum said. "To outhit the opponent every night and not score, and we can't seem to get that hit with men in scoring position. ... I'm a little lost for words now. It's kind of the same thing. Guys are battling and having decent at-bats, good at-bats, and just not finalizing it, really. There's a lot of good at-bats. They're just not getting it done."
The Cubs literally ran into trouble in the sixth. Soriano was on second and Adrian Cardenas at first with one out when Darwin Barney hit a grounder to left. Soriano ran into Alvarez and was called out. Third-base umpire Bob Davidson was following Rule 7.08 (b), which states that a runner is out if he hinders a fielder's attempt to make a play on a batted ball.
"The one thing about Sori is, when he gets going, his knee doesn't allow him to stop," Sveum said of the outfielder, who is playing despite a sore left knee. "It's tough to slow those legs down."
"I didn't try to do it," Soriano said. "He was in my line, trying to get the ball. It's a very tough play to read."
Chicago had one last chance in the ninth with runners at first and third with one out, but Bucs closer Joel Hanrahan struck out David DeJesus and Starlin Castro.
"You saw some excellent hitting to get into scoring position, shooting both of those balls into right field," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "But Joel found his way, got a tough hitter to strike out in DeJesus, then followed up by getting arguably the best hitter in their lineup for a big finish -- much needed."
With the loss, the Cubs dropped to 15-30. There's still a long way to go in the season.
"We got close to getting on a roll there and have just fallen into a slump," Dempster said. "You have to find a way to keep your head up and keep plugging forward, because that team on the other side of the field and the other 28 teams don't feel sorry for you. They don't care. You've got to play through it."