By Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune –
HOUSTON — Forget about a win. What does a team have to do to get a lead?
With Matt Garza turning in his worst start in the National League, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if Tony Campana had scored after stealing second and third base in the first inning Monday night. But at least that would have stopped the streak within a streak for the Cubs, who look as if they could be headed to the first overall pick in the 2013 draft.
Three-run homers by Jason Castro and Chris Johnson off Garza carried the Astros to an 8-4 victory, extending the Cubs’ losing streak to seven games before 16,895 at Minute Maid Park.
The Cubs haven’t led a game in 50 innings, and have been tied in only four of the last 36 innings, including the White Sox’s sweep at Wrigley Field. Take away two meaningless four-run, ninth-inning rallies and they would have been shut out three games in a row.
Suddenly the Cubs find themselves at 15-27. They’re on pace to go 58-104 and battle teams like the Twins and Padres — possibly even these Astros — for the worst record in the major leagues. The Cubs haven’t lost 100 games in a season since 1966. But in the first season for the Theo Epstein regime, there’s a chance the level of futility could go to infinity, and beyond.
Garza was acquired by Jim Hendry to be the Cubs’ stopper of losing streaks, but he lasted only three innings, allowing seven earned runs. It was his worst outing since he also gave up seven for the Rays on July 20, 2010 in Baltimore.
Garza retired the first five Astros hitters but then got only three outs in a 10-batter stretch that included long home runs by Castro and Johnson, both with two outs. The Castro homer came on an 0-2 breaking pitch that hung over the inside part of the plate, screaming to be crushed.
With Jed Lowrie adding a solo home run off Randy Wells, the Astros scored eight two-out runs as the Cubs began a six-game trip that will end in Pittsburgh.
Adrian Cardenas sparked the Cubs’ four-run ninth inning with a leadoff ground-rule double. Koyie Hill, Reed Johnson, David DeJesus and Blake Lalli followed with singles. Lalli drove in the final two runs.
Manager Dale Sveum had talked about trying a different lineup but stuck with the same combination he has been using against right-handed starters. He said he decided to give this look another week to produce as upon review he was satisfied with the job being done by the 1-2-3 combination of DeJesus, Campana and Starlin Castro.
“Scoring position, bases loaded, getting those hits,” Sveum said about the keys to jump-starting his lineup. “Getting a double with guys on first and second to drive in two. Those are the things we’re lacking. We need to take advantage of a chance to put a game away, put big crooked numbers on the board.”
The Cubs failed to drive runners in from second or third in each of the first five innings, going 0-for-8 in those situations. Bryan LaHair was 0-for-3, including a pair of inning-ending strikeouts, and is hitting only .207 with runners in scoring position.