Before Friday's game, a defiant Don Baylor declined to second-guess his decision to remove Jason Bere from Sunday's game against Houston, in which he had pitched six shutout innings.
The Cubs eventually lost when their bullpen coughed up seven runs.
"I'd do it again," the Cubs' manager said. "Why second-guess yourself and beat yourself up? It's not worth it. When [Bere] approaches a certain amount of pitches, the history tells you one thing. If you want to go against history, you're playing Russian roulette."
Lo and behold, Bere fired six shutout innings Friday against the same opponent.
This time Baylor sent him back to the mound for the seventh, and Bere gave up a two-run homer to Richard Hidalgo that led the Astros to a 4-1 win.
So was it a case of Bere tiring?
"It was just one [errant] pitch," Baylor said. "If the score's different, you can get by with that pitch."
That was Baylor's way of shifting the blame to his anemic lineup. And that's clearly where most of it belongs.
On a day in which Bere threw almost flawlessly, the Cubs continued their maddening trend of failing to hit at home, failing to hit in day games and failing to hit against left-handers.
Wrigley Field long has been considered a hitter's paradise. But even with temperatures in the mid-70s, the Cubs could manage no more than four hits against Houston's triumvirate of Carlos Hernandez, Octavio Dotel and Billy Wagner.
"It's not 40 degrees with the wind blowing in," Baylor said. "After a while you run out of excuses."
As usual, the only hitter who needed no excuses was Sammy Sosa, who provided all the offense with his 19th home run, an opposite-field rope off Dotel in the eighth.
Asked if he could explain the Cubs' woes at home, where they're 9-16 and batting .220, Sosa replied, "I wish I knew."
The Cubs made the least of the few chances they had.
After Hernandez issued consecutive two-out walks to Sosa, Fred McGriff and Moises Alou in the third, Todd Hundley was caught staring at an 0-2 fastball. That resulted in a wave of boos for the homegrown catcher.
McGriff led off the sixth with a double but was stranded there. Alou tried to advance him by whacking a first-pitch fastball foul to right. But then he grounded out to third on a changeup, drawing jeers from the frustrated crowd of 38,169.
"That pitch stayed on the inside part," Baylor said. "When you're struggling, sometimes you swing at that pitch. If not, maybe you take it and go to 0-2."
At least Bere was sharp. Since Baylor threatened to remove him from the rotation 10 days ago, Bere has allowed two runs in 13 innings.
"On a personal note, things are starting to turn the corner," Bere said. "From a team standpoint, the way to get a streak going is to send a starter out there every day who gives you a chance to win. We have that day in and day out."
Cubs starters have posted a 2.40 ERA since May 21, but it hasn't been enough.