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Cubs lose early-morning decision to Pirates, then fall to Reds at night

By Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — The Cubs played two games Tuesday at Wrigley Field, with one ending around 1:30 a.m. and the other beginning at 7 p.m.

After the Cubs looked sluggish while the Pirates shut them out, 3-0, in the early morning, manager Dale Sveum was hoping a more energized team would show up Tuesday night against the Reds.

“I think both teams were sleepwalking out there,” Sveum said of the rain-delayed Pirates game. “With a full crowd out there tonight, I think it will be a different story.”

The crowd was much bigger, but it was the same old ending for the Cubs, who lost, 3-1, to the Reds in the opener of the three-game series.

Ryan Hanigan’s three-run double off Manny Corpas snapped a scoreless tie in the sixth, while Homer Bailey and relievers Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton held the Cubs to one run on four hits.

Sveum said he detected a carryover effect from Monday’s sleepwalking performance.

“It sure seemed like it,” he said. “Besides (Darwin) Barney again (two hits), there wasn’t a whole lot of balls squared up all night long. After swinging the bats really well the first few days against Pittsburgh and then (Monday) night and tonight, it was kind of discouraging. I thought we had everyone swinging the bats at the same time. It’s kind of gone backward right now.”

Germano pitched well before walking the bases loaded in the sixth, preceding Hanigan’s shot off Corpas. He said he last remembered walking five hitters in his second big league start in 2004.

“I was just missing,” he said.

Germano was satisfied with his performance, despite falling to 2-8, because of the Reds’ lineup.

“To keep this lineup to three runs. I think it’s a pretty good job,” he said.

Whenever Sveum and Reds’ manager Dusty Baker face off, the past and present collide. Though both have played, coached and managed in a variety of cities, they belong to the exclusive fraternity of attempted drought-busters on the North Side.

Sveum and Baker have the goods. They’re baseball lifers who are well respected in the clubhouse and share a mutual disdain for pomposity. But managing the Cubs never has been easy, and the degree of difficulty only seems to increase as the 103-year-old drought gets longer.

Baker ranks 19th on the all-time managerial win list, while Lou Piniella finished 14th when he retired in 2010. But both ended their Chicago careers beaten up after enduring media criticism, controversies and untold drama.

Upon being hired in ‘06, Piniella famously said: “I know you’ve had some good managers here in the past. Sometimes things go … not the way you expect. Look, when the bosses are behind you, like they are here, it makes things a whole lot easier.”

The Cubs’ honchos were firmly behind Baker and Piniella until the losses began piling up. Neither was fired, but Baker was let go at the end of his deal and Piniella left on his own terms to take care of his ailing mother.

Sveum knows he has the support of his bosses, at least for now.

“We knew we would be putting out a team that had too much developing talent to evaluate strictly on wins and losses,” President Theo Epstein said Friday. “I think he has done a fantastic job, to be honest with you.”

But Sveum has a three-year contract and a farm system that probably won’t be able to produce any impact players, outside of Anthony Rizzo, until at least 2014, the final year of his deal. Sveum entered the job knowing the team probably would struggle early, unlike Baker and Piniella, who were asked to win from the get-go.

Sveum said Tuesday he has spoken occasionally with Baker, but conceded he doesn’t know him too well. But he admires the Reds’ manager for lasting as long as he has,despite unhappy endings with the Giants and Cubs.

“As a manager, we do a lot of these jobs to get fired sometimes, or let go, whatever you want to call it,” Sveum said. “But then to be around for 3,000 games on a few different teams (like Baker), it’s one of the more impressive things. There aren’t too many people it happens to.”

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