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Cubs' Rookie Bullpen Fails Again; 9-5 Loss Ends Baby Winning Streak

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Existential questions regarding the 2010 Cubs continue. Here's today's: how many more "microcosm of the season" games do we need before they become a macrocosm?

Don't answer that. Instead, listen to Lou Piniella, as quoted by Bruce Miles:

"I tell you what, these young kids we have here pitching wise, they're getting an opportunity of a lifetime, and none of them want to step up," Piniella said. "You can't have better opportunities than what we're giving these guys."

Exactly right. The Cubs rolled the dice with a mostly-rookie bullpen this year. I thought some of them would step up. So did Lou and the coaching staff. Clearly, all of us were wrong. The Cubs lost 9-5 to the Padres on Monday night and most of the blame goes to Andrew Cashner and James Russell, who allowed four runs in the last two innings to put the game out of reach. In fact, put Justin Berg in that group, too, because the one hit he allowed with two out in the seventh inning allowed Adrian Gonzalez to score and made Tom Gorzelanny's line one run worse than it needed to be.

The meltdowns by Cashner and Russell -- who at times this year have both looked like they might belong as middle relievers/setup guys -- were particularly disturbing, not only because they didn't look like major league pitchers, but because the Cubs were mounting an offensive comeback of their own in the seventh and eighth innings. Highlights included a two-run double by Kosuke Fukudome (who has to be being showcased; he's now 11-for-33, .333 in his last 10 games, with six walks) and a two-run homer by Blake DeWitt, his second since joining the Cubs. In 15 games (14 starts) since the trade, DeWitt is hitting .314/.386/.451 with two doubles, two HR and seven RBI in 51 AB. He may not be able to keep that up, but he has been a pleasant surprise.

The game entered the ninth inning at 7-5 Padres and the Cubs looked like they might have a shot at it, only to see Russell put the game out of reach before he struck out the side.

Even more troubling was something we have seen over and over and over and over and over (and stop me when you've had enough of that) this year... failure to get runners in scoring position home with less than two out. What made it worse yesterday is that this happened in the first inning, when Fukudome and Darwin Barney led off the inning with hits. For the Purple Evolutionist, the double was his first major league hit. Second and third, nobody out, middle of the order up, the situation most teams love.

For the Cubs: a groundout and a strikeout, followed by a walk to load the bases... and then a lazy fly ball to right field. The Cubs took themselves out of potential scoring innings in the third (double play) and fourth (caught stealing). You cannot do this in general, and especially against a team like the Padres, which has taken advantage of virtually all its opportunities this season. The Cubs gave them one in the fifth when Gorzelanny let .105-hitting Padres pitcher Kevin Correia double down the left field line, driving in a run.

Microcosm over. On a beautiful night Monday, with the tropical humidity of last week gone, the Cubs drew about 5,000 short of capacity, with about 20% of the bleachers empty. It appeared that maybe 28,000 or so out of the 36,814 tickets sold were actually in the house, but after the Padres stretched the lead to 7-2 in the top of the eighth in a game that eventually dragged out to 3:26, most people deserted Wrigley; there couldn't have been more than 5,000 or so left by game's end.

They'll try it again tonight.