CHICAGO -- At some point the Chicago Cubs tend to figure out how to let things slip away.
Sometimes it’s a solid pitching performance that gets no support. Other times it’s a late rally that falls short. On occasion there has been the bullpen meltdown.
They can’t string together hits, they don’t hit in the clutch and save situations have been a white-knuckle ride. They are just 4-12 in June and 22-44 overall this season.
Sunday’s 7-4 defeat to the Boston Red Sox was actually even in the seventh inning until the Cubs saw Jeff Baker fumble a cutoff throw that could have led to an out and watched Welington Castillo throw a ball into center field for an error.
Usually the Cubs put together more heartbreak than they did Sunday. In their 66 games, 34 have been decided by two runs or less and they are just 11-23 in those games.
They have lacked the players, the performance and the clutch moment to alter those numbers.
“The thing that has gone on all year long is that we get into close ballgames and something breaks down,” manager Dale Sveum said. “We can’t score if it’s close or we just can’t make a pitch if it’s close to hold them or shut them down and get the game into extra innings.
“We have to be better at those things. Somebody needs to step up and get a big hit when it counts, not when we’re four- and five-runs down.”
Against the Red Sox on Sunday the Cubs headed into the ninth inning with just five hits and they were all from the top three spots in the order. And one of those “hits” was on a generous scoring call when Starlin Castro was given a double after a dropped popup.
But they made things interesting by loading the bases and nearly tying the game when David DeJesus' fly ball to deep center was caught at the wall.
“Every guy in the locker room is busting it, they’re prepared and they’re doing everything they can,” said pitcher Paul Maholm, who was solid in an outing Sunday when he gave up three runs over six innings. “We’re not coming up with the hit, not coming up with the big pitch and it’s on us.”
Maholm isn’t leaving himself out of the equation. He gave up two first-inning runs Sunday, leaving him with an 8.31 ERA in the opening inning. His 12 first-inning runs have put the Cubs in a number of early holes.
“We have to go out there and do it,” Maholm said. “We battle back every night and make it a close game but we have to get it going early. The pitching staff has to put up some zeroes on the board early and let those guys relax and swing it, give us a lead and let us hold on to it.”