After winning eight of their first nine games without Alfonso Soriano in the lineup, the idea that Soriano's absence was beneficial to the Cubs gained acceptability in some quarters.
"Listen, if we hadn't been winning, they'd say, 'Boy, these guys really miss Soriano,' " manager Lou Piniella said before Tuesday's game against Milwaukee. "Yeah, it was unfair. These guys have all done a nice job here, but certainly if Soriano had been in there, we would be playing the same way, or hopefully a little better."
Piniella's theory may be gaining steam after a 10-7 loss to the Brewers, the fourth defeat in the last five games for the Soriano-free Cubs.
The Cubs managed 11 hits and walked eight times against Ben Sheets and four relievers but stranded 10 baserunners and failed to get decent outings from starter Jason Marquis or the middle relief corps.
They have lost three of four to the Brewers in their own ballpark, giving the Brewers confidence they can handle the Cubs after they fell apart down the stretch last summer.
"Every game is important," Derrek Lee said. "I don't think you think of any team as any more important than another. You have to rack up the wins, no matter who it's against."
On a cold night at Wrigley Field, the Cubs and Brewers dragged it out for 3 hours 40 minutes, including a 13-minute delay when plate umpire Jerry Crawford was forced to leave with an undisclosed illness after the second inning. Marquis responded to the delay by getting shelled in the third, allowing three runs on four hits to let Milwaukee take a 4-2 lead.
"I think [the delay] probably bothered both pitchers a little bit," Piniella said.
Marquis disagreed and said he wasn't affected.
"Not at all," he said. "I was able to stay loose and they gave me ample amount of time to get loose again. It didn't come into play."
Lee helped matters in the third with his eighth home run, a solo shot that tied Sammy Sosa and Lee Walls for the club record for April homers. Felix Pie's sacrifice fly tied it up 4-4 before Marquis gave up another run in the fifth on Corey Hart's two-out double and Bill Hall's RBI single.
That was it for Marquis. Piniella removed him after five in favor of Kevin Hart. But Hart provided no relief, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk in 11/3 innings. Mike Cameron, who had three hits in his first game back from a 25-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy, contributed a two-run single in the seventh off Michael Wuertz for a 9-4 lead.
Mike Fontenot's three-run double in the seventh pulled the Cubs to within two, but that was as close as they would get.
"Our pitching wasn't good tonight," Piniella said. "We have to do a better job in the middle before we get to our short people. That has been a problem for us for a while."
Lee said the Cubs need to turn it around, and quickly.
"We don't want this string to continue," he said. "We were playing so well that it's a little disappointing to fall back. But you dust yourself off and try to get hot again."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun