Cubs homer twice, but drop finale against Crew

Cubs homer twice, but drop finale against Crew

Cubs homer twice, but drop finale against Crew
MILWAUKEE -- The Cubs struck out 37 times in a three-game series against the Brewers, which would be a lot easier for manager Dale Sveum to stomach if he saw more power from his club.

"They go hand in hand, but you've got to have both hands," Sveum said. "You can't have both -- no home runs and a bunch of strikeouts. If you're going to strike out, you better have slugging percentage, otherwise you're not going to score runs."

That is what happened Wednesday. David DeJesus and Bryan LaHair both hit solo home runs, but the Cubs combined for 13 K's as Milwaukee edged Chicago, 3-2, to complete a series sweep. Ryan Braun hit a RBI double and his 34th home run to back Yovani Gallardo (13-8), who fanned nine over seven innings.

DeJesus started the game with his sixth home run, but the Brewers answered in their half of the first as Norichika Aoki, Braun and Corey Hart all doubled, with runs scoring on the latter two hits. Braun homered to open the sixth, launching a 1-1 pitch from Travis Wood to right-center. LaHair made it 3-2 with a leadoff home run in the Cubs' seventh, his first blast since July 4.

Wood (4-10) lost his seventh straight decision, serving up three runs on six hits over seven innings.

"He's a good pitcher," Braun said. "He's got good command to both sides of the plate and he threw a good cutter that's tough to differentiate. We had a couple of doubles in the first inning, but other than that, he pretty much shut us down."

"I wanted to win the ballgame," Wood said. "I like winning games. We've been struggling lately. We played a pretty clean game today, 3-2, and no luck. We just fell short."

After going 15-10 in July, the Cubs have scuffled in August and lost for the 18th time in the past 22 games.

"It's a combination of a lot of things," Sveum said. "We're going down looking, we're swinging at pitches way out of the zone early, and then we get good pitches to hit, and we take them. What's going on right now mentally is strange from a hitting point. We're aggressive when we shouldn't be, and we're passive when we should be aggressive."

Some of the struggles are caused by inexperience. Sveum spent a long time during batting practice with rookies Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson.

"We're super young right now," Sveum said. "That's part of the gig and we knew it."

Which means Sveum is constantly teaching. After the first inning Tuesday, Sveum was spotted in the dugout talking to Vitters after he struck out. Was that about having a better at-bat?

"That was when I was asking him why he didn't run to first base when the ball got away from the catcher," Sveum said.

Vitters' answer?

"You can only imagine," Sveum said.

The Cubs were 15-10 in July, but haven't carried over that success this month. They're batting .213 in their last 22 games, and have been out-scored 114-74, out-homered 29-17, and struck out 187 times. Has it been tough for Sveum?

"I'm not going to lie to you and say it doesn't get frustrating to lose and be behind in ballgames constantly, to where our closer has gotten three save opportunities in the month of August," Sveum said. "We've got to start putting things together and get on the board early and get leads and stay on top. It's very difficult when you're not getting people on base. DeJesus is swinging the bat great and we're not getting him in, getting him over."

That doesn't mean the players have given up.

"It's not fun," rookie Anthony Rizzo said of the recent tough times. "It trickles down to everyone. Everyone has to do well together. It can't be one guy to shine and shine and shine. We have to keep going."

"The atmosphere is fine," Sveum said. "You don't see a lot of guys hanging their heads. The process of grinding at-bats out has got to get better. It's almost like we're afraid to make mistakes. You can't be afraid to fail, and it looks like that's what we're going through right now."

The Cubs are on pace to lose at least 100 games. Sveum said he's not counting.

"Obviously, no one wants to lose 100 games, but you have to plug away every single day to grind it out," Sveum said. "We have to start grinding. That's the bottom line. You have to grind things out."

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.