Errors help spoil Jackson's chances vs. Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- Dale Sveum has met with the players, they've done the drills, they've practiced the plays, and they have the talent, which is why Saturday's game -- and this season -- is so frustrating.
The Brewers took advantage of the Cubs' sloppy play to post a 5-1 win in front of a sellout crowd of 42,230 at Miller Park in what looked like a repeat of past games this season.
"It seems to be the story every night," the manager said. "It seems to be continuing that we can't seem to catch the ball or make a play when we have to make a play. Edwin [Jackson] pitched a great game, but he was part of that, throwing the ball into center field. We've got to step up and somebody has to start making plays and driving runs in because this is obviously getting old."
Jackson's throwing error in the sixth led to two of the Brewers' runs and was one of three miscues by the Cubs in the game. Of the five runs scored, four were unearned.
"I've talked," Sveum said about how he's dealt with the Cubs. "We've been doing this quite a bit. You don't want to have meetings every night."
Maybe the problem is youth? Shortstop Starlin Castro committed his fourth error.
"We're making a lot of the same mistakes," Sveum said. "Obviously, they're young, but we're making mistakes that rookie ball people make."
Jackson, who signed a four-year, $52 million contract this offseason, took the loss. It's the first time the right-hander has opened a season winless in his first four starts since 2007 when he went 0-8 with the Rays.
"Everybody knows they can make plays," Jackson said. "It's nothing that anyone is panicking over. Clearly, we have to play better and execute better. It's not an issue that anyone is panicking over. I can't speak for everyone, but nobody is panicking. We just have to make the plays when we have a chance."
Milwaukee's Hiram Burgos picked up his first win in his first Major League start. Sveum said the Cubs knew what to expect from the rookie. They had watched plenty of video, had seen the right-hander pitch in the World Baseball Classic.
"Guys aren't going cold turkey tonight," Sveum said. "He's a finesse-type guy, and a guy who throws strikes and nothing overwhelming."
He managed to subdue the Cubs until the fourth. Castro singled with one out, advanced on Anthony Rizzo's groundout and scored on Alfonso Soriano's single. It was Soriano's second RBI of the season. He entered the game 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. He's not alone. The Cubs collectively have struggled and are batting .148 with runners in scoring position, the lowest average in the Major Leagues.
To compound matters, they rank among the National League leaders in errors, and added to that total in the fifth. Logan Schafer reached second on a miscue by Soriano, who misjudged a ball. Martin Maldonado walked and both runners moved up on a groundout. Pinch-hitter Blake Lalli then hit a grounder to Rizzo, who fumbled the ball, but recovered in time to flip to Jackson to get Lalli at first. A run scored on the play and Maldonado scored when Castro misplayed Norichika Aoki's grounder for another error.
Ryan Braun was at first with one out in the sixth when Jonathan Lucroy hit the ball back to Jackson, who spun to throw to second but double-clutched. The ball sailed into center field for the Cubs' third error. Braun reached third on the play and scored on Schafer's sacrifice. Maldonado added an RBI single.
"I think it's just a matter of slowing the game down," second baseman Darwin Barney said. "Starting pitching has done such a great job and a lot of the jams they've been in have been attributed to miscues. It's unfortunate. I think a part of it is pressure. I think guys are putting a little too much pressure on themselves and they take that onto the defensive side. As a unit, we need to be better from pitchers to infielders and just all around. It just comes with slowing the game down and being confident and just making the routine plays and keeping them routine."
Soriano also felt the Cubs may be pressing.
"I think we're better than this," Soriano said. "I think we're trying too much. That's why the team isn't doing well so far. I think everybody is pushing too much and trying to do too much. We have to come back tomorrow and be relaxed and just let the talent play the game."
In Spring Training, the Cubs knew they had a rough schedule in the first month and needed to get off to a good start.
"Everybody in this clubhouse, we want to win so bad, we want to show the other team and the fans that we can do it," Soriano said. "I think that's our mentality here. We just have to play the game and have fun and not try to do too much and not worry about making mistakes and play the game."
The Brewers began the season 2-8, and have won six in a row.
"That's what drives me crazy, the coaches crazy," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "We try to figure things and how to get the team going and next thing you know they do it themselves. It's baffling, this game's very baffling."
Sveum would like to see the players figure it out. He said he has "options" if the mistakes continue. He admitted to becoming impatient with the poor play.
"To win in the big leagues, you have to have people who perform, and perform 162 games, not once in a while," Sveum said. "You have to perform. It's the big leagues. Otherwise, you lose your jobs."