News Column

Maholm Struggles Again as Cubs Fall to Cardinals

April 16, 2012

Paul Sullivan

Paul Maholm desperately wanted to make a good first impression on his new team after signing as a free agent last winter.

But his second straight subpar outing put the Cubs in an early hole again on Sunday at Busch Stadium, resulting in a 10-3 loss to the Cardinals.

"Obviously I'd much rather be 2-0 with a zero (earned-run average) right now, but that's not how it is," Maholm said. "For me, I'm going to learn from it. ... It's a long season. I'm going to get it going. All these guys in here are busting it and expecting to win, and that's how we're going to do it."

No matter how much the Cubs are "busting it," they've gotten off to a 3-7 start, losing all three series to Washington, Milwaukee and St. Louis.

Matt Carpenter drove in five runs with a 4-for-4 afternoon, as the Cardinals kept adding on against the Cubs' bullpen. Maholm is 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA, and has served up three home runs in his two starts.

"It wasn't real pretty again," manager Dale Sveum said.

Sveum rested four starters and inserted most of his bench players into the lineup against right-hander Jake Westbrook, using Joe Mather, Reed Johnson, Jeff Baker and Blake DeWitt.

"Westbrook's numbers against right-handers are far worse than they are against left-handers," he explained beforehand. "So it's kind of one of those days to get these guys some at-bats."

Career-wise, Westbrook's splits were very similar. But in 2011, right-handed hitters batted .316 off him, as opposed to a .260 average by left-handed hitters. Baker, Johnson, Mather and the left-handed hitting DeWitt were a combined 2-for-23 against right-handers entering the day.

Staked to a 6-0 lead after three, Westbrook cruised to his second win, allowing one earned run on four hits over seven innings. The Cubs finished with six hits, and were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

Sveum said the team hit some balls good in the later innings, but ran into "some bad luck" that hurt them.

"At least we had some good at-bats in that kind of game," he said.

Small victories are about all the Cubs are getting these days. It wasn't unexpected to see the Cubs drop two of three to the defending World Series champions, but after winning the first game, they failed to give the Cardinals much of a fight in the last two losses.

"Coming into St. Louis, where we're not fan favorites, it's always nice to come in and play close games," Mather said. "I think we're probably a little more disappointed we're not playing as competitive a game as we think we can."



Source: (c)2012 the Chicago Tribune


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