Alou takes blame for latest loss

CrimeCrime, Law and JusticeSportsChicago CubsPiracyNational LeagueAntonio Alfonseca

In one of the classiest mea culpas imaginable, Moises Alou fell on his bat after the Cubs went down again. He accepted responsibility in an almost noble way.

"Everybody is trying to help me, and I appreciate that, but I have too much in my head," Alou said. "I [stink] right now, but I'm not going to lose my faith. I keep saying that. I don't know what's going to happen, but I'm going to come out. I'm not going to give up. I'm too good of a hitter to keep embarrassing myself like this."

Alou, signed to a three-year, $27 million deal last winter, couldn't get the ball out of the infield Monday night. His 0-for-5 epitomized a horrible job of situational hitting by the Cubs. Despite six strong innings from Mark Prior, they lost the opener of a four-game series to Pittsburgh 3-2 in 10 innings.

"We had chances to score and give him a chance to win," manager Don Baylor said. "It was there many, many times—a sacrifice fly, a groundout. The chances [to score] were there many, many times, and we couldn't take advantage of them."

Keith Osik's pinch single off Antonio Alfonseca (0-1) gave the Pirates the victory before 16,215 at PNC Park. The Cubs fell to 2-2 on the trip and 11 games under .500 at 19-30. Their only runs came on game-tying homers from Corey Patterson off Mike Fetters in the eighth inning and Bobby Hill off Mike Williams in the ninth.

"This could have been an awesome game," Alou said. "The young guys came through. But we just couldn't get a win."

Prior deserved better. He was just as impressive as when he won his debut against the Pirates on Wednesday night. He had the same easy heat, averaging in the 95 to 96 m.p.h. range and hitting 99 on Pittsburgh's gun with one pitch.

Prior allowed three hits in six innings, leaving with a 1-0 deficit after 94 pitches. He struck out seven, giving him 17 against four walks in his 12 innings.

Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon took an aggressive approach against him. Three of the six runners who reached base against Prior attempted to steal. Joe Girardi cut down Craig Wilson and Brian Giles, but a stolen base by Rob Mackowiak led to the Pirates' run off Prior.

"I feel like I threw the ball well," Prior said. "I felt a lot more comfortable."

The Cubs, who are 15th in the National League in batting and 14th in runs, were 0-for-11 with men in scoring position. The heart of the order—Sammy Sosa, Fred McGriff and Alou—went 0-for-5 in that situation.

Nothing the Cubs did worked. Baylor let Prior hit away with a man on first and one out in the fifth inning, and the guy who hit three minor-league home runs grounded into an inning-ending double play. Baylor had Girardi bunt after Alex Gonzalez got a leadoff single, and Girardi got Gonzalez forced out at second.

But until further notice, Alou is the benchmark for futility. He's hitting .177 and hasn't homered since May 2. The low point Monday was a check-swing tap to the mound with runners on the corners and no outs in the eighth.

"One day it seems like I find my swing, but I don't," Alou said. "Today I felt great in batting practice and I didn't hit in the game. Sometimes you get so much in your head, you start trying to remember too much. You take it to the game and you forget to swing the bat."

Like Baylor and Cubs fans, Alou wonders when the .306 career hitter and consistent 100-RBI man is going to show up.

"I got a couple of important hits in Houston; then I come here and I [stink]," Alou said. "You probably think I [stink], but I don't [stink]."

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