Sunday night's game in Busch Stadium began as a carbon copy of Rich Hill's first-inning implosion on Friday, only this time it was Jason Marquis playing the role of struggling starter with control issues.
Like Friday night, it ended with the Cubs losing 5-3 to St. Louis, leaving them with three consecutive losing series as they head to Cincinnati.
Marquis had another one of his teeth-gnashing outings, allowing 12 baserunners in 51/3 innings. He was charged with five runs on seven hits and five walks, three of which came in the first inning.
"He's not throwing the ball as well early this year as he did last year," manager Lou Piniella said. "We've got some work to do here with our pitching. It's been a little bit of a struggle. It really has been.
"It goes to show you that what you think is going to be a big strength is an area you need to work in. You never know about baseball. You've just got to keep working, that's all. Get better."
Marquis (1-2) has an earned-run average of 5.08 after six starts, allowing 43 hits and 15 walks in only 332/3 innings. He's not in any imminent danger of losing his spot in the rotation, but Marquis will have to start showing some consistency or begin looking over his shoulder.
"A little inconsistent, not what I've been looking for," Marquis said. "But I feel good. I'll work hard in-between starts like I always do, and I'm looking forward to my next start."
Asked if he would skip Marquis' next start with an off day on Thursday, Piniella said he wasn't sure what he'd do. But if Piniella has proven anything this year, it's that he has no patience for players who aren't performing. General manager Jim Hendry has Sean Marshall and Sean Gallagher in the bullpen in case of emergency.
"When things start to go out of whack, you've got to have areas to cover yourself with," Hendry said. "Nobody goes 162 games with a 25-man roster, or a 12-man pitching staff. Last year we had to mix and match more in all the other areas."
Marquis walked the bases loaded in the first but escaped unscathed thanks to a diving catch of a Chris Duncan liner by Derrek Lee. The Cubs grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second off ex-Cubs right-hander Todd Wellemeyer (3-1), but Marquis gave the two runs right back in the bottom half.
St. Louis went ahead for good in the fourth when Marquis issued a two-out walk to Adam Kennedy to put two men on before Albert Pujols doubled them home.
"Usually not a good idea to walk Kennedy to get to Pujols," Piniella said. "And that cost us."
The Cardinals led 5-2 in the seventh when the Cubs loaded the bases with no one out, but only one run scored, on a Kosuke Fukudome sacrifice fly, as Lee and Mark DeRosa failed to come through in the clutch.
"Offensively we either have the nice, big explosion, or we seem to score three runs a lot," Piniella said. "And we're not winning these 3-1, 3-2 ballgames."
DeRosa was 1-for-12 in the series and has been struggling for the last week.
"I didn't hit the ball the whole series," DeRosa said. "With Aramis (Ramirez) out of the lineup, guys have to step up. Tonight we weren't able to get the big hit."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun