Villanueva masterful in Cubs’ latest loss


Aug 4, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Villanueva (33) pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers are the real deal. The Cubs? Well, it’s a work in progress.

Chicago dropped its fourth straight game, and its seventh of its last eight. After coming off the heels of its first sweep of the Giants in San Francisco in two decades, Chicago has hit a brick wall, despite not losing any key pieces at the deadline – which was expected by most of the baseball world.

In what has become a regular trend for this club, the offense fell short. Well, falling short implies they did anything at all, which is giving Sunday’s lineup much more credit than it deserves. The team went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position, despite outhitting the Dodgers seven-to-two on the afternoon.

Carlos Villanueva (2-8) allowed just two hits over six innings of work in front of a crowd of 38,409 faithful at the Friendly Confines. Two Cubs relievers – James Russell and Pedro Strop – combined for three no-hit innings of work in relief of the big right-hander.

The Dodgers (61-49) tallied its first, and only, run in the top of the second off Villanueva. Following back-to-back walks to Hanley Ramirez and Andrew Ethier, A.J. Ellis singled to center, scoring Ramirez from second. Los Angeles failed to capitalize on a potential big inning, though, following that base hit with back-to-back flyouts and a strikeout.

In the bottom of the third, Chicago had runners at the corners, but cleanup man Dioner Navarro grounded weakly to third to end the inning.

Kenley Janesen set down the Cubs in order in the bottom of the ninth, all via the strikeout.

The Dodgers turned the ball to Stephen Fife, looking to give ace Zack Grienke a much-deserved rest, and the youngster did not disappoint. He tossed 5 1/3 innings of seven-hit ball, and the Cubs were as unsuccessful at solving the Dodgers’ pen as Los Angeles was in solving Chicago’s. In 3 2/3 innings of work, Chicago did not manage a base runner.

Navarro and Schierholtz each contributed two hits apiece in the losing effort, as Chicago dropped to thirteen games under .500 on the season, with a record of 49-62.

Chicago opens a series against Cincinnati on Tuesday. Edwin Jackson (7-11) squares off against Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies at Citizen Bank Park. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CDT.