Wells, Cubs on short end of duel with Padres
Righty's seven frames of one-run ball not enough vs. Garland
CHICAGO -- The Cubs can't blame the rookie relievers for Tuesday's loss.
Jon Garland outdueled Randy Wells and scattered four hits over seven shutout innings to help the Padres post a 1-0 victory over the Cubs.
"I thought both pitchers pitched really well," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "You can't fault anything that Wells did. He competed well, made pitches when he had to -- [gave up] one run over seven innings.
"Again, we had opportunities and didn't get them in. The last ball [Blake] DeWitt hit, we needed the wind blowing out a little bit."
That last ball came with two outs in the ninth when the Cubs had a runner at first. DeWitt launched a pitch from Padres closer Heath Bell to the warning track in right, but Ryan Ludwick made the catch at the ivy.
"I've played here a lot and have a good feel for the track," Ludwick said. "It was pretty routine. I saw the flight of the ball and I knew I had room."
DeWitt homered Monday night, but not this time. The Cubs went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven. It was their first 1-0 loss since June 16, 2007.
"You know Bell's reputation," DeWitt said. "You're looking for a pitch you can hit hard somewhere. You're trying to keep the inning alive and move runners and do what you can."
It was tough against Garland (12-8). The Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in 1997, he never pitched for the team. Garland was dealt to the White Sox in July 1998 for Matt Karchner and spent eight seasons on the South Side of Chicago. He also has pitched for the Angels, D-backs and the Dodgers, and this year, he was the Padres' Opening Day starter. This was his seventh start against the Cubs and first since June 30, 2006.
On Tuesday, Garland escaped jams in the second and third with key double plays, and then gave up a leadoff double to Xavier Nady in the fourth. The right-hander finished his night by retiring the final 12 batters he faced. DeWitt faced Garland earlier this season while with the Dodgers and is now 2-for-11 lifetime against him.
"Against him, you know it's going to be a battle," DeWitt said.
The Padres got all the runs Garland needed in the first. Jerry Hairston Jr. singled and Miguel Tejada walked to start the inning, and one out later, Wells (5-11) hit Ludwick and Chase Headley grounded out to Nady at first, allowing Hairston to score.
Nady hesitated as if he was thinking possible double play, but because of Headley's speed, he opted to play it safe. Piniella agreed, saying Nady made the right call.
"Just get an out and hopefully score some runs," Nady said of his thinking on the play.
The first inning had been a problem for Wells, but he kept the damage to a minimum.
"I came out a little too amped up and trying to establish the sinker early and missed a couple times and got behind," Wells said. "The second pitch of the game, trying to throw a strike with a good fastball and I left it up a little bit. With the walk and hit batter, you put yourself in a tight spot. I was able to settle down after Larry [Rothschild, pitching coach] came out [after Ludwick] and made a couple pitches, but unfortunately gave up a run. So it goes."
Wells gave up two more hits after that inning and struck out six, but was pulled after throwing 122 pitches. The right-hander was 12-10 in his rookie season last year, and the numbers haven't been as good this year.
"When they traded Teddy [Lilly], I put that on myself to step up and show the organization that I could take a bigger role and be a guy who could give them good innings and good games and give us a chance to win," Wells said. "For the most part, I've been subpar. You've got to take these last eight or nine starts and push forward and try to bring some positives out of a down season."
Looking for positives? Carlos Marmol struck out two in the ninth to raise his season total to 100. He's the second Cubs reliever to record multiple 100-strikeout seasons. Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter did it three times from 1977-79.
San Diego boasts the best ERA in the National League, and Garland is one of four starting pitchers with double-digit wins.
"It all starts with pitching -- you've got to have good pitching," Piniella said. "[The Padres] have got nice starting pitching and they've got a real nice bullpen. They added a couple nice players down the stretch in Tejada and Ludwick to give them some right-handed punch in the middle of the lineup and experience.
"They've got  errors. I think they lead the National League in fielding."
Actually, the Padres are third. The Cubs are last, adding their 95th miscue when rookie Starlin Castro made a fielding error, and No. 96 on catcher Koyie Hill's throwing error. Tuesday's loss was the Cubs' 44th one-run game, and they are 14-30. The 30 losses are the most in baseball.
"We have to keep grinding and hopefully get a bunch of guys clicking at the right time and hopefully make the rest of the season enjoyable," Nady said.
Still, who picked San Diego to lead the NL West?
"You really don't know about baseball," Piniella said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.