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Volstad fails Cubs again in loss

By Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — The opening round of the City Series this weekend is likely to provide the Cubs with the only playoff atmosphere they will see at Wrigley Field for the rest of the season.

It’s a chance for new players such as Bryan LaHair, Ian Stewart and Rafael Dolis to see what all the fuss is about, and for manager Dale Sveum to win over wary Cubs fans.

“The guys told me it’s electric, it’s fun, it’s exciting, the place will be packed,” LaHair said. “But it’s just another game.”

(PHOTO: Chicago Cubs’ Ian Stewart is forced out at second base by Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Freddy Galvis, top, as Welington Castillo grounded into a double play to end the second inning at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois, on Thursday, May 17, 2012.)

In the calm before the storm, Roy Halladay turned Wrigley into a noise-free zone Thursday night in the Phillies’ 8-7 victory over the Cubs, leaving them eight games below .500, tying their low water mark of the year.

Halladay allowed three runs over eight innings, before the Cubs rallied for four in the ninth to make it seem closer than it was.

The Cubs bright spot was Welington Castillo’s two-out, three-run double in the ninth inning that Darwin Barney followed with a run-scoring single before Reed Johnson grounded out to end the game. Castillo also homered in the eighth inning.

Cubs starter Chris Volstad lasted only two innings while falling to 0-6. Sveum said he would talk to President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer and consider their options, calling Triple-A Iowa left-hander Travis Wood the “logical choice” if Volstad is yanked from the rotation.

Volstad said he’s trying to “show them I deserve to be in the rotation,” adding “it’s up to them,” meaning Epstein, Hoyer and Sveum.

“Just a lot of forcing, instead of letting my ability take over,” he said. “I’ve thrown beautiful games before. It’s in there. Just have to tap into it.”

Now the attention turns to the series that never fails to live up to the hype, usually because something strange happens. While both teams are struggling to find themselves in the early going, the chances of Cubs and Sox fans not being able to find a way to get on each other’s nerves is slim.

Local product Jeff Samardzija, who faces Phillip Humber on Friday in the opener, said he’s really looking forward to the “buzz” around the ballpark, especially when they go to what he called “Comiskey Park” next month.

“Just like it’s the Tweeter Center and not the Comcast Amphitheater,” he said. “That’s what it is. That’s what it used to be. It’s still the Sears Tower, also. We’re stuck in our ways around here.”

The Cubs have been stuck in their ways since 1908, their last World Series championship year, and are going backward again. Volstad threw 58 pitches over two innings and has a 7.46 earned-run average with the Cubs. He’s 0-11 with a 5.40 ERA over his last 19 starts.

The Cubs’ staff continues to go through changes, with Scott Maine being sent to A Iowa after not retiring any of the three hitters he faced Wednesday. Reliever Blake Parker made his major league debut after being called up from Iowa, allowing three unearned runs in 12/3 innings.

But the big issue is what to do with Volstad, and what he will do to fix himself.

“Good question,” he said. “We’ve been trying a lot of different things. Tried everything.”

But they have yet to find an answer, and are weary of the search.

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