CINCINNATI -- An angry Mike Quade was embarrassed by Monday's 7-4 loss to the Reds and called a team meeting to let the Cubs know.
"You struggle, you get it, but that was embarrassing, and that [stuff] has to stop," Quade said. "It was everybody in the room for that meeting -- myself, the players, the coaching staff. It's just not going to cut it right now."
Carlos Zambrano shouldered the blame. He entered the game riding a 5-0 streak at Great American Ball Park and had won his past 10 road games overall, dating back to last August. Both those streaks came to an abrupt end as the Reds wiped out a 4-0 Cubs lead with a seven-run sixth inning.
"It was all my fault," Zambrano said. "If I consider myself a good pitcher, I should keep the score like that [at 4-0]. I'm disappointed in myself. A four-run lead, I don't like the performance today from myself. It can be Philadelphia, whatever, any good team. As a good pitcher, you have to get better and keep pitching the way you're supposed to pitch and keep the score in your favor."
Zambrano (4-2) was scheduled to start in the series finale Sunday against the Giants, but nature intervened and that game was postponed until June 28. Instead, the right-hander faced the Reds, who had managed three earned runs in the past 36 innings against Zambrano. On Monday, he stifled Cincinnati to one hit over the first five innings. Then it got messy.
The Reds sent 12 batters to the plate in the sixth. With one out, Drew Stubbs singled and Edgar Renteria walked -- the key at-bat -- to set up successive RBI singles by Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce.
"In that situation, I have to let Renteria hit the ball," Zambrano said. "I don't want to face Votto with two batters on. It's unacceptable. I'm very disappointed I gave up five, six runs today."
Zambrano fell behind 2-0 to Renteria, threw a strike, then two more balls to walk him.
"The walk to Renteria was huge in the inning," Quade said. "That animal that's hitting behind him [Votto] is tough enough. He wasn't able to get [Votto] out. He's been very successful getting Phillips out and he didn't. He had a group of people there who he's pitched extremely well against and you say, 'He'll get through this,' and he didn't."
Scott Rolen followed Bruce with an RBI double over Alfonso Soriano in left field to chase Zambrano. Marcos Mateo's first pitch to Jonny Gomes was closer to Gomes' head than the plate, and a run scored on the wild pitch. Gomes then drove a 1-1 pitch into the bleachers in right-center field for his seventh home run and a 7-4 lead.
"My teammates played good today, and I let my teammates down," Zambrano said. "If you want to blame somebody, blame me. Not my teammates. They gave me a four-run lead and I didn't keep it like that."
Quade said that everyone shoulders the blame for the sloppy play -- and pointed out baserunning blunders, the lack of clutch hitting and defensive gaffes. It wasn't just the players, either. He included the coaching staff and himself.
"All of us have to get better, every one of us," Quade said.
It was as if someone flipped a switch in the sixth, as far as the Reds were concerned.
"It seemed like we woke up all at once because Zambrano, this guy can shut you down and shut you out, the way he was doing it," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They helped us out with a couple of balls, and we'll take that help. It was big for us to come back and win.
"Things happen in about 30 seconds in baseball," Baker said. "Usually, if you go to the bathroom and come back, you have seven runs like we did tonight."
Zambrano said Quade was justified for his outburst. The loss dropped the Cubs to 17-22, their low-water mark of the season.
"Obviously, he wants to win and everybody here wants to win, but it's up to us," Zambrano said. "'Q' can be the best manager in the big leagues, but if we don't perform as good, he'll be the one who takes the blame. If we do good, he'll look good. It's up to us."
The Cubs missed an opportunity in the first when Homer Bailey (3-0) walked the bases loaded with one out, but the right-hander struck out both Soriano and Marlon Byrd to end the threat.
"[Bailey] made his pitches, but it doesn't matter," Byrd said. "Some way, somehow you have to put the ball in play and I didn't get it done. That's been my story all year long. I take full responsibility for that -- runners in scoring position is killing me. Until I turn that around it's not going to help this team."
How bad is it? Byrd, who has batted third most of the year, has three RBIs in May, and all of those came on May 4.
Carlos Pena was safe on an infield single to lead off the Chicago fifth and reached third on Koyie Hill's single. Zambrano then hit a chopper to Rolen at third. Pena broke for home but put the brakes on halfway down the line when he saw catcher Ryan Hanigan brace for Rolen's throw. However, Rolen skipped the ball past the catcher, and Pena scored on the error.
The next batter, Kosuke Fukudome, was safe on a fielder's choice as Hill was caught in a rundown, then Darwin Barney blooped a single to shallow right to score Zambrano.
With one out in the sixth, Byrd extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a single and Pena followed with his fourth homer in the last 11 games. He had gone homerless in his first 25 games. The Cubs botched a chance in the eighth when Soriano was thrown out at home trying to score from second on Byrd's single with none out.
"We need to pick it up, Byrd said. "[Quade] is not saying anything we don't already know. We have to change it."
He could understand his manager's anger, too.
"First-year manager, full season starting from the beginning, things don't go right, and we're not playing up to our capabilities," Byrd said. "Enough is enough, and you can only watch it for so long. We have to start doing better, starting with myself. The veterans have to step up and it needs to start with me."
There were enough problems to go around.
"Nothing's [bleeping] easy up here," Quade said. "You got a nice 4-0 lead, and Z's cruising, and everything's hunky dory -- I got news for you, it ain't routine until the freaking thing is over. We've just got to make [darn] sure we're looking for every opportunity to add on when we get it, and we're looking for every opportunity to close things out when we get a chance. We're not good enough to coast at all in any aspect of the game."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.