Close isn't good enough for Cubs

Have the baseball gods conspired against the Cubs, who keep finding ways to lose close games? AP Photo/Al Behrman

CINCINNATI -- To say the Chicago Cubs are getting frustrated with their early season results would be an understatement. At 5-13 they're six games out of first and 4.5 games out of fourth place, going into action on Tuesday night. But things could have been different over this first month. As history suggests the Cubs are getting unusual results.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau they're the third team (1966 Reds, 1909 Browns) in major league history to have five or fewer wins in their first 18 games while all 18 were decided by four runs or less. No blowouts here and yet the Cubs still stand eight games under .500 already.

In fact, 15 of 18 have been decided by three runs or less for the first time since 2001. And the last time the first 18 were decided by four runs or less was in 1908.

Pitcher Travis Wood may have summed it up best after yet another tough defeat, 5-4, to the Cincinnati Reds in 13 innings Monday night. The Cubs led 4-2 entering the bottom of the 13th.

"It's easy to be down but it's also hard to be down because we're not getting blown out every game," Wood said. "We're right there every game. We just have to come together as a team and figure out how to pull it out."

If it's not the defense (17 errors in 18 games) it's the bullpen (4.86 ERA). If it's not the bullpen it's clutch hitting (.147 with runners in scoring position). The only thing working is their starting staff (3.11 ERA). But that's not enough, obviously.

"I don't know what we did to (tick) off the baseball gods because they are mad at us and they're letting it show," reliever James Russell said. "You can't cry over spilled milk. It is what it is. You just have to come in every day and be ready. And once we get on that hot streak we'll let it roll and have some fun."

But once some of the other parts of the team come around -- if they do -- will the starting pitching still be there? Those baseball Gods can be devious. Wasting good performances from the most integral part of the game, as the Cubs are doing right now, might just come back to haunt them making things worse.

"We've been in almost every single game," Michael Bowden stated. "It's just a few things here or there. We're close."

But close isn't good enough. All eighteen games have been relatively close but only five have ended up in the win column.

"They are tough because you're doing everything you can," Wood said. "You just have to hang in there and ride it out. Tides will turn."