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Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Cubs are at a loss in roomy ballpark

By Doug Padilla

MIAMI -- The bigger the ballpark the more, it seems, the Chicago Cubs' offensive weaknesses are exposed.

Jeff Baker
Jeff Baker provided the Cubs with their only run on Wednesday when he doubled and eventually scored on a ground out.
They don’t have the best foot speed around so small ball was never going to be their game. And with spacious Marlins Park messing with their already limited power game, they had nowhere to turn Wednesday in a 9-1 defeat.

That's to take nothing away from Marlins starter Mark Buehrle, who was slicing and dicing the Cubs' lineup in his usual efficient way. The Marlins scored all those runs and the game still wrapped up in a tidy 2 hours, 38 minutes.

As it is constructed, the Cubs' offense appears to require too many players to be on their game at once. No hot bat has emerged to carry the club for stretches and the on-base frequency that was coming from the top of the order early in the season has slowed.

At this point, the Cubs would take some line drives into the gaps, but they aren’t getting that either.

“We’re not hitting the ball out of the ballpark, and we’re not hitting for a big slugging percentage,” manager Dale Sveum said. “It’s tough to score runs when you don’t have slugging percentage and you’re not getting people on base.”

The Cubs had little margin for error if they still wanted to be competitive despite being in a rebuilding mode and they have been unable to reach any lofty goals they might have had.

Even what seemed to be a strength -- their ability to hit left-handers -- failed them Wednesday. The Cubs entered with a .298 batting average against lefties this season, second-best in the National League. It was also the fourth-best mark in baseball behind only Tampa Bay, Texas and St. Louis.

But against Buehrle that advantage dissipated. They put together no significant run-scoring threats and when they did finally score, they needed a little help to do it. Their only run came in the eighth inning when Jeff Baker doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on an Ian Stewart ground ball.

“[The ballpark] is going to make it tough for our lineup,” Sveum said. “We don’t have a lot of big power guys. But slugging percentage doesn’t just come from home runs. It’s a doubles and a triples ballpark. We’re not getting much slugging percentage at all in two games here. We have to get something going.”

Thursday’s day game against Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco will mark the return of the club’s left-handed hitters which means Bryan LaHair will give them power potential and David DeJesus will return to the leadoff spot.

Sveum hinted that he might alter the lineup, which could mean that LaHair moves higher after batting sixth most of the season. If LaHair moves up it’s possible that Alfonso Soriano could move down in the order.