Wood doesn't allow hit until fifth, but Cubs lose

Wood doesn't allow hit until fifth, but Cubs lose

Wood doesn't allow hit until fifth, but Cubs lose

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have had plenty of quality starts, but not enough quality at-bats.

Brandon Phillips hit a game-tying RBI single and Todd Frazier belted a tie-breaking home run to lift the Reds to a 2-1 victory on Wednesday over the Cubs, who can't get their offense going.

The Reds have won 12 straight at Wrigley, the longest consecutive streak by the same opponent in Cubs history. The Cubs, 7-21 against the National League Central, are batting .210 against their division and .264 against everyone else. That won't get it done.

"It's getting frustrating, because it's the same game almost," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "We've obviously had a few of the games like [Tuesday, a 12-2 loss], but the starting pitcher pitches into the seventh inning and gives us quality starts and we're not having quality at-bats on an every day basis. We're not getting enough three, four, five quality at-bats from everybody on a daily basis."

The focus has been on Starlin Castro's offensive struggles, but he's not alone. Anthony Rizzo is 2-for-18 in his last six games and hasn't homered since May 18.

"Rizzo hasn't done anything in quite a while as well," Sveum said. "Castro has probably had better at-bats than he has in the last month. We've got to get these guys going. They're our better hitters, and we're not getting any solid contact or slugging percentage out of them at all."

The Cubs are 2-8 this month, and began the day 16 games back in the Central.

"I think it's going to test everyone's character that we are far out of it," Rizzo said. "We obviously aren't playing very well right now. The pitchers are pitching their tails off, and us hitters aren't giving them anything to show for it. It's going to be a grind.

"You're just going to have to have fun," Rizzo said. "When you look out there, it doesn't seem like anyone is having fun. We need to pick each other up."

Travis Wood did his part. The lefty's no-hit bid ended with two outs in the fifth, but he still limited the Reds to four hits over seven innings, and notched his 12th quality start out of 13 outings this season. His only non-quality start came on May 25 in Cincinnati, when Wood was charged with five runs in 5 2/3 innings. But he didn't get any help.

"It's a broken record," Sveum said. "Woody just pitched another great game and has nothing to show for it."

"You've got to take it as it is," Wood said, "and go out there every fifth day and give it all you've got. We've got good guys here. We'll come around and scratch out wins and figure it out."

Wood came up through the Reds' system, and appeared in 39 big league games with Cincinnati before he was dealt to the Cubs in Dec. 2011. This was his fifth start against his former team, and he has yet to beat them.

"Woody can pitch," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We hated to give him up but we had to give up something to get [Sean] Marshall [in the trade]. [Wood] was one of my favorite guys here, period. But it's part of the business."

Wood knows Mike Leake, who started for Cincinnati on Wednesday, well. Leake was as stingy as Wood, giving up only three hits in eight innings for his sixth win of the year. One of those hits was Nate Schierholtz's eighth home run of the season, a solo shot with one out in the second.

Shin-Soo Choo doubled off the left-field wall with one out in the sixth and scored one out later on Phillips' single up the middle. Phillips now has 53 RBIs, currently second most in the National League.

Frazier led off the seventh with his eighth homer, and second in as many days, launching a 1-0 pitch into the left-field bleachers.

What Sveum wants to see -- besides more wins -- is a better approach at the plate.

"We're not getting aggressive swings," Sveum said. "Until we start getting more aggressive in fastball counts and early in the counts, we can't keep swinging the bats like we are in hitters' counts."

The Cubs lost their 20th game in which they had a lead, tying the Dodgers for second most in the Majors.

"You've got to fight through it," Rizzo said. "It's a long season. Personally, it's frustrating, but the whole team is frustrated even more. One person can struggle and, hopefully, other people pick us up. But the whole team is struggling, and that's the most frustrating part. We're all in this together. It's a battle, but we have to keep going."

The Cubs have done plenty of early hitting, spent hours in the batting cages, watched video on their iPads.

Said Sveum: "Maybe we should just close the cages up and the video room and strap it on."

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.