Epic drought continues for Volstad in defeat

Epic drought continues for Volstad in defeat

Epic drought continues for Volstad in defeat
ATLANTA -- Chris Volstad admitted he's trying to be too perfect. All the Cubs want him to do is be good.

Once again, one bad inning was Volstad's downfall, and once again, he took the loss.

Michael Bourn hit a three-run triple, Jason Heyward hit a solo home run in a five-run fifth, and Chipper Jones had five hits and drove in four runs to lead the Braves to a 10-3 victory Tuesday night over the Cubs, who snapped a four-game win streak, and Volstad, who has not won in his last 20 starts.

This was Volstad's first start after a mid-May demotion to Triple-A Iowa, and it came after rain delayed the start of the game for 52 minutes.

"It's definitely a learning process, and getting back out there was good," Volstad said. "I think it's a matter of me trying to be perfect and too fine and trying to be better than I have to be.

"Nobody's perfect, so how can I expect myself to be? I need to relax and throw pitches like I had in innings one, two, three, four."

Volstad (0-7) gave up six runs on seven hits over 4 1/3 innings. He has not won since July 10, 2011, nearly a full calendar year, and is 0-12 with a 5.68 ERA in the 20 starts. If Volstad stays on schedule, he'll have one more chance for a "W" before the All-Star break on Sunday against the Mets.

"Not much has changed, obviously," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It was another big inning. There was still some hard contact going on before that [inning], and his stuff and location wasn't all that good anyway. The ball wasn't down. It didn't seem as if anything was sinking very good.

"He didn't pitch to the game plan either. That was a little bit discouraging, too. He shook [catcher Steve Clevenger] off a lot for some reason. Another combination of a lot of things he's got to learn to work on."

Was Volstad disagreeing with his catcher?

"Not really," Volstad said. "I think I shook more in the other innings than in the fifth. For the most part, we were right there on the same page. A couple, one or two, here or there."

Volstad looked fine in the first four innings.

"I think it's just a matter of attacking, attacking the zone," Volstad said. "You see what I can do when I do that -- four innings of two hits and one run."

After the game, Clevenger said he should've taken charge.

"There were a couple times when we weren't on the same page, and it's probably my fault that I didn't go out to talk to him and let him know what I thought," Clevenger said. "I take credit for him not being successful out there. That's the game, and it happens sometimes. Next time, I won't let it happen."

It's tough to not win for 20 consecutive games.

"You've got to run into a win once in a while," Sveum said. "Sometimes you can't explain certain things, but it's very hard to do."

When Volstad was sent to Iowa in mid-May, the Cubs wanted the right-hander to work on his mental approach, his body language, his confidence. On Monday, Volstad said he felt good after his stint in the Minor Leagues.

But he didn't get off to a good start as he walked Bourn on four pitches to open the Braves' first. Bourn scored two outs later on Jones' single. It was the first of five hits for the 40-year-old third baseman, who found out prior to the game he was named to the National League All-Star team in place of injured Matt Kemp.

"I don't think that swing is ready to retire," Sveum said of Jones, who has announced he'll retire after this season. "He could go to the American League and DH. There's still a lot left in that swing."

"Tonight was just one of those dream games," Jones said. "I'd be hard pressed to find another game where I played better."

The Cubs took advantage of Braves miscues in the third. With one out, David DeJesus was safe on a hit that deflected off first baseman Freddie Freeman into shallow right. DeJesus then scored on second baseman Dan Uggla's throwing error as he fielded Starlin Castro's grounder and threw it into left field. Castro reached second on the miscue and was nearly forced out on Anthony Rizzo's grounder, but he somehow slid around the tag of shortstop Andrelton Simmons. Bryan LaHair and Clevenger then each hit RBI singles for a 3-1 lead.

The Braves then batted around in the fifth. They loaded the bases with none out and went ahead, 4-3, on Bourn's triple that was just fair down the right-field line. Bourn then scored on Martin Prado's sacrifice fly, and Heyward followed with his 13th home run to make it 6-3.

In the Braves' sixth, the Cubs' pitchers walked six.

"It was very difficult to watch," Sveum said. "They were scuds. It didn't seem like anything was close."

Rafael Dolis walked the bases loaded, and Jairo Asencio walked Prado to force in a run. One out later, Jones cleared them with a double.

But the focus was on Volstad. Maybe going 20 games without a "W" is getting to him.

"I think it's me wanting to be a competitor," he said. "I get runners on base, I'm trying to keep the team in the game, win the game, we're ahead and it's just bad thinking on my part. I don't think the streak has to do with anything. It's just a matter of me wanting to be perfect. I can't expect that of myself."

It's just one day at a time.

"I just focus on each individual pitch, and that's all I can do," Volstad said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.