No offense leaves Big Z tough-luck loser
Righty fans nine, limits Mets to two runs over six innings
NEW YORK -- Derrek Lee says every team goes through a hitting funk. The Cubs apparently decided to get theirs out of the way early.
Jose Reyes hit a two-run triple in the second and pinch-hitter Fernando Tatis added a two-run homer in the eighth to spark the New York Mets to a 4-0 victory Tuesday night over the Cubs, who dropped their fourth in a row.
"We had chances," Lou Piniella said. "We just don't seem to get base hits with men on base or men in scoring position."
They didn't have many chances, managing three hits. Total.
"I don't think anybody is too pleased," Piniella said.
Carlos Zambrano (1-2) matched a season high with nine strikeouts while limiting New York to two runs on six hits and three walks over six innings. It's the fourth quality start in the past six games by Chicago pitchers. And it was wasted.
Zambrano made one mistake: He walked Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey, a .097 hitter, with one on and two outs in the second. That set up Reyes' triple.
"I was having problems with the strike zone," Zambrano said. "In that inning, I didn't feel the ball and didn't have a good grip on the ball. That's no excuse. We lost today and need to come back tomorrow and show we can win games."
Tatis connected off John Grabow, and Chicago now has been outscored, 17-6, in the past four games. It doesn't help that Aramis Ramirez is batting .145 and leading the team in strikeouts with 19, adding two more on Tuesday.
"I haven't gotten the job done," Ramirez said. "No excuses. I'm 100 percent. I just have to keep working and try to get out of it."
And all the strikeouts?
"I'm not seeing the ball good right now," Ramirez said. "I'm swinging at too many bad pitches. You can't hit when you do that. My last at-bat, I swung at two changes in the dirt. You can't hit that. I just have to stay focused and get some better pitches to hit."
Ramirez said he isn't trying to make up for the team's lackluster hitting, just his own problems at the plate.
"I'm not hitting -- I'm trying to do too much and trying to hit a four-run homer with nobody on base," he said. "You just have to get back to the basics, see the ball, hit the ball and see what happens."
Piniella can't figure out what's going on with his cleanup hitter and hinted he may give him a day off.
"I haven't seen him strike out that much," Piniella said. "He usually makes pretty good contact."
Ramirez is a career .286 hitter, who has been the Cubs' most consistent batter in the clutch. Could he be pressing?
"I don't know why you need to press in April," Piniella said. "It becomes a long season if you start pressing in April."
"This is baseball," Lee said. "Over a 162-game season, there are going to be times you don't swing the bat. It's just fact. There are teams that have won championships that have not been good offensive teams. I don't care how we do it, we just have to find a way to win."
Lee isn't interested in statistics that might explain why the Cubs are scuffling. For example, they entered Tuesday's game batting .308 with runners in scoring position (RISP) and two outs, and had scored 31 runs in those situations. When there are less than two outs, the Cubs are batting .205 with RISP.
"Who cares? Wins and losses, that's the only thing that matters," Lee said.
The Cubs have relied on home runs to provide the majority of their runs so far.
"The only thing I look at is did we win the game or lose the game," Lee said. "When [the Marlins] won the World Series [in 2003], we didn't have a good offensive team but we won the World Series."
That year, Lee and the Florida Marlins batted .266 as a team, fifth best in the National League.
"We have a long way to go," Lee said of the Cubs. "This team is going to be fine."
It doesn't seem to matter if it's a lefty or right-hander starting. The Cubs mustered three hits total in the game, all off Pelfrey (3-0), who struck out six over seven innings and got some help from former Cubs catcher Henry Blanco.
The Cubs had runners at first and second and one out in the fifth with Zambrano up. He squared to bunt, but Blanco made a heads-up play when he threw out Mike Fontenot, who had strayed at second. Zambrano then hit into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
This is the Cubs' longest losing streak of the season, and first four-game skid since last Sept. 16-19.
"We can't criticize anybody," Zambrano said. "Nobody wants to strike out, nobody wants to give up a home run. Nobody wants to do a bad job. Everybody here is focused and trying to do a good job. Unfortunately, things aren't going the way we planned. It's early and we still have plenty of chances and I know this thing will turn around and whatever is [wrong] right now, we can fix it."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.