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Cubs’ skid hits 12 as Pirates pull off sweep

By Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune –

PITTSBURGH — As the Cubs inched closer to tying the franchise record for consecutive losses, the architects of the team were back home focusing on next week’s amateur draft.

President Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer haven’t traveled with the team on the road trip, leaving assistant to the GM Shiraz Rehman and assistant GM Randy Bush to watch Cubs history unfold.

If Epstein and Hoyer were watching Sunday’s 10-4 loss to the Pirates on TV, at least they had the option of turning the channel.

The Cubs have gone from bad to abysmal to virtually unwatchable during the losing streak, which reached 12 games after the sweep by the Pirates.

Unless they beat the Padres on Monday at Wrigley Field, the Cubs will enter Tuesday’s game against Hoyer’s former club with a chance to tie the franchise record of 14 straight losses, set at the start of the 1997 season.

Getting mind-boggling?

“No,” losing pitcher Matt Garza said. “We knew coming in it was going to be tough. We played well, and just got hit by a couple injuries. No excuses. We’re going to turn it around. … We’re not quitters.”

Cubs manager Dale Sveum doesn’t talk to Epstein or Hoyer on a daily basis, but said they frequently trade text messages. As the Cubs continue to crumble, the absence of Epstein and Hoyer is glaring.

Sveum insisted it’s irrelevant.

“Somebody is always here — Randy or Shiraz,” he said. “The draft is going on right now, so most teams aren’t going to have their general managers on the road this time of the year anyway, especially one that’s so involved and hands-on, like Theo is.

“So it’s a very important time for the organization, to make sure we get those draft picks right too.”

The Cubs are on pace to lose 110 games. Along with the 14-game streak in 1997, they have had only three other losing streaks of 12 or more games over the last 40 years: in 1985 (13 straight), 1982 (13) and 1981 (12).

Garza’s road woes continued, leaving him 1-3 with a 7.20 earned-run average in five road starts. He gave up a three-run homer to Pedro Alvarez in the first to put the Cubs in a hole and served up three homers in five innings, allowing six runs. Garza also committed another throwing error on a bunt, his third of the year.

Sveum said Garza was beaten by his “fourth best pitch,” his changeup, adding he would discuss pitch selection with his right-hander.

“It was not exactly protocol, or what the game plan was,” Sveum said. “It’s unfortunate. They hit them out of the ballpark. I guess a lot of times they’ll roll over on him too. But that’s kind of the way things are going. Nobody is rolling over on anything.”

Pirates starter Erik Bedard shut out the Cubs on two hits over six innings. The Cubs scored all their runs after trailing 10-0, and are now 1-9 against left-handed starters.

How will the Cubs respond to this adversity?

“We have great fans, they know the game,” Garza said. “But we can’t play for the fans right now. We have to play for every guy in here. Every guy has to pull on the same side of the rope. It’s going to test our character as a club.”

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