Offense leaves Cubs on 2-game skid

Chicago CubsSan Diego PadresKeith LockhartMark GrudzielanekLenny Harris

As hot and cold as the Cubs offense has looked in April, there may be some nice debates on the North Side this summer. The Cubs wasted another fine start by Matt Clement in Thursday's 2-1 loss to San Diego, dropping their first series since the opening weekend in Cincinnati.

Clement held the Padres to two runs on six hits in seven innings, but San Diego lefty Oliver Perez and three relievers completely shut down the Cubs offense, as Padres pitchers did much of series.

Over the last two days, the Cubs were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position, with nine strikeouts.

"We had opportunities [Wednesday] and we had opportunities [Thursday]," Cubs first baseman Eric Karros said. "We're going to be a team that has to take advantage of those situations."

The Cubs entered their six-game trip to Colorado and San Francisco with a 13-9 record and a 2½-game lead in the NL Central.

The starting pitching has been outstanding, as a league-leading 2.86 earned-run average attested. But as long as the hitting remained inconsistent, the Cubs bandwagon probably will remain half-empty instead of half-full.

"If people want to jump on the bandwagon, that's fine," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "If they don't, that's fine too. I don't care about bandwagons. I just care about going out there and winning every day. If you want to get on, fine. If you don't, don't get in the way.

"I wanted a good April. Everyone wanted a good April. But from what I've heard in the past, a lot of times the Cubs were out of it by the end of April. Right? That's bad. I haven't been in one of those situations in a long time. That would make a season unbearable. Plus, there are a certain amount of victories I want every month."

San Diego scratched out two runs off Clement in the third inning on Keith Lockhart's RBI double and Ryan Klesko's run-scoring single.

The Cubs had three hits in the first off Perez (1-2) but failed to score and didn't threaten again until the seventh, when Karros doubled with one out and advanced to third on Ramon Martinez's sharp single to left.

But reliever Luther Hackman struck out Damian Miller and lefty Mike Matthews induced pinch-hitter Lenny Harris to pop out on the first pitch.

Tom Goodwin reached on an infield hit in the eighth, stole second and advanced on Jaret Wright's wild pitch before coming home on a Mark Grudzielanek groundout. The run snapped the Padres' 16-inning scoreless streak against the Cubs.

Baker said Perez was "effectively wild," striking out six and walking two in 61/3 innings. The Cubs struck out 10 times after racking up 15 strikeouts Wednesday.

Clement has given up seven earned runs on only 15 hits in his last 281/3 innings in his last three outings.

"Everybody knows we have a good, young pitching staff," Baker said. "And they also know we have trouble scoring runs right now. It was just another one of those days where it looks like you can't buy a run. A few days ago, it looked like we could score at will."

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