CHICAGO -- After a lean road trip, the Cubs were hoping for a happy return to the Friendly Confines, but instead found more misery on a windy, frigid afternoon that provided a bleak backdrop for Chicago's sixth straight loss.
Three errors magnified a shaky start from Chris Volstad during Cincinnati's 9-4 win over the Cubs on Friday, the club's 10,000th victory in the history of its franchise. Volstad allowed four first-inning runs and lost his seventh straight decision dating back to last season. Volstad is winless in 14 starts since last year's All-Star break.
"[I've pitched] some good games, some bad games," Volstad said. "That's the way the game is, I guess. I've just got to ... keep pitching. I was throwing well and ran up against some guys that were throwing well last year."
Volstad didn't get much help behind him during his 41-pitch first frame. Drew Stubbs singled and stole second, but ended up on third when Starlin Castro missed Geovany Soto's throw. That was the first error.
Joey Votto and Jay Bruce singled to score the first run. Bruce advanced to second with another steal when Soto couldn't field Volstad's pitch cleanly. After a walk, Chris Heisey singled home two runs and moved to second when Marlon Byrd mishandled the grounder, the Cubs' second error of the inning.
The damage: four runs, three earned, four singles, two steals, two errors and a four-run hole. The Cubs lost the last five games of their recent six-game road trip, not scoring more than three runs in any of the defeats. That made the early four-run deficit all the more daunting as the Cubs fell to 3-11, matching San Diego's National League-worst record.
"After striking the first guy out, it kind of snowballed into an inning we didn't need at that point," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "But [Volstad] settled down. He actually did alright, started throwing his breaking ball for a strike."
The Cubs battled back on a couple of occasions, both times with help from the Reds. Castro crushed a ball in the third that would have gone out on most days, but not on a 42-degree afternoon, with the wind gusting at 27 mph. However, Heisey dropped the ball for a two-base error, scoring David DeJesus. Bryan LaHair singled in Castro, trimming the lead to 4-2.
"This park probably plays as different as any park I've ever seen," Stubbs said. "If the wind's blowing out, it's hard to keep the ball in the yard. If it's blowing in, you can give it all you got [and it won't leave the park]. The ball Castro hit was absolutely crushed."
Volstad (0-2) couldn't take advantage of the support, giving up two runs to Cincinnati in the fourth on Stubbs' two-run double.
"The big hit of the game was Stubbs [making it] 6-2 after we just scored," Sveum said. "That was kind of a backbreaker to that whole deal."
Volstad was done after five innings, allowing six runs -- five earned -- seven hits and two walks.
"Just one bad inning the last two starts," Volstad said. "This one happened to be the first inning and put me, put the team, in a big hole.
"Half my pitch count was in the first inning," Volstad added, shaking his head.
Chicago's third error came on LaHair's muffed grounder in the third, but it didn't lead to any runs. The Cubs led the Majors with 134 errors last season.
The Cubs had a couple of other brief uprisings. Blake DeWitt led off the fifth with a pinch-hit double and scored on Darwin Barney's groundout. LaHair, who was batting cleanup for the first time this season, led off the sixth with another double, also scoring on an out. However, the Cubs hit into hard luck for most of the afternoon.
"It was unbelievable," LaHair said. "I think everybody hit about two balls hard. It's a tough break, a tough game. We've just got to keep doing it."
LaHair's two hits were a bright spot, as was Castro's first-inning single, which extended his hitting streak to eight games. Castro has now reached base in 53 of his last 54 games dating back to Aug. 11 of last season. Despite the losing streak, Sveum found hope in some improved swings, even if the luck has yet to turn around.
"That's probably about the best we've swung the bat all year," Sveum said. "We hit the heck out of the ball all day, right at people, and didn't get anything to show for it."
Bradford Doolittle is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.