Cubs on wrong end of pitching duel

Cubs on wrong end of pitching duel

Cubs on wrong end of pitching duel
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Cubs have been making a lot of starting pitchers look real good, and Sunday, it was Barry Zito's turn.

Zito threw 8 1/3 shutout innings to lead the Giants to a 2-0 victory over the Cubs, who lost their 10th straight road game for the first time since Sept. 13-30, 2000.

The Cubs' problems haven't just been on the road. In 14 losses since May 16, they've scored 13 earned runs over 95 innings against starting pitchers, who have a combined 1.23 ERA. Zito (5-2) joins John Danks, Jake Peavy, Bud Norris, A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard as starters who did not allow a run in that stretch.

"It's the same press conference every day, a broken record," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "I don't know what to say to come up with something different. It's just frustrating -- I mean, golly."

Travis Wood deserved better. Making his third start since stepping into the rotation for Chris Volstad, Wood (0-2) gave up three hits over seven innings and struck out seven, one shy of his career high of eight, done twice.

"He matched Zito pitch for pitch," Cubs catcher Koyie Hill said. "He did a good job with a lineup that's been feeling pretty good. They've been playing good baseball. He kept it under control and gave us a chance. He really did well and executed really well."

"We didn't hit too many balls hard today -- their guy was great, too," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "[Wood] was on top of his game."

It was the left-hander's longest and best outing with the Cubs.

"Woody was awesome," Sveum said. "That's as good as I've seen him pitch, even when he was in Cincinnati. He basically threw the ball wherever he wanted. Even [Joaquin] Arias' ball was close to a foot off the plate away and that was just a nice piece of hitting."

Arias' hit came in the fifth. Wood faced the minimum through the first four innings and did not allow a baserunner until he hit Ryan Theriot with a pitch with one out in the fourth.

The lefty struck out Buster Posey to open the fifth but Angel Pagan doubled over Alfonso Soriano in left for the Giants' first hit. One out later, Pagan scored on Arias' single despite a good throw from right fielder Reed Johnson. Hill never had the ball.

"He went for the tag too early and took his eye off it -- I don't think it was ever in his glove," Sveum said. "I think he'll tell you he should've caught that 99 out of 100 times."

"I looked at it and it was pretty textbook, to be honest with you," Hill said of the play. "I don't know if I would've done anything different. I went to cover up the ball with my bare hand like you're taught to do, and the ball just popped out. It's one of those things. Priority No. 1 is to catch the ball and it didn't happen."

It wasn't the only defensive lapse. In the Giants' eighth, Gregor Blanco was at first but able to score on Melky Cabrera's single to left with two outs as Soriano threw to the infield and not home.

"That's another brain fart that we've got to be smart [about]," Sveum said. "That's a pretty fast runner taking off stealing, and a ball like that, you've got to get that ball in. We don't care if the ball goes to second. That guy will score easy if you throw that ball to second base."

Which Blanco did. In the clubhouse postgame, outfield coach Dave McKay talked to Soriano, who has been playing despite a sore left knee. Sveum said they'll use Soriano as the designated hitter in upcoming Interleague games in American League ballparks.

"Hopefully, he'll hit some home runs," Sveum said.

The Cubs need some kind of offense. The best chance they had Sunday came in the fifth when they had runners at first and second with one out but Zito struck out Hill, and Ian Stewart, who was on second, was thrown out at third trying to advance. The Giants left-hander finished with five K's. Johnson made good contact against Zito, as did Starlin Castro, even though he went 0-for-4.

"Other than that, there weren't a lot of good at-bats," Sveum said.

The Cubs have scored three runs in three games against the Giants' starting trio of Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Zito.

"If we knew the answer -- give credit to them," Hill said of the sputtering offense. "They've run three pretty good pitchers out there. We know Zito has had his issues in the past but he doesn't look like the same guy. He's competitive with all his pitches and it makes it tough on us, especially in a ballpark that's not very hitter friendly to begin with."

The Cubs now have lost 15 of their last 18 games, and nine of those games have been decided by two runs or less. Wood remained optimistic.

"We're right there," Wood said. "We're going to win some ballgames."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.