Cubs keep dialing up E-1

What once seemed like a statistical oddity quickly is becoming a trend.

The Cubs may have the second-ranked pitching staff in the National League, but they also are leading the majors in errors by pitchers, a number that has been sprouting like dandelions this May.

"It's the one area that has been haunting us," manager Dusty Baker said.

"We know it. Everyone knows it."

And if anyone didn't know it before Carlos Zambrano's game-turning throwing error in Monday's 2-0 loss to St. Louis, they found out in a hurry.

An unearned run in the third inning spoiled an otherwise dominant Zambrano performance. Zambrano fielded Matt Morris' bunt and threw it into center field while trying to force Mike Matheny at second.

The Cardinals eventually scored the game's first run on Fernando Vina's double-play grounder, and Morris made it stand up with a shutout, his first since May 13, 2002, when he also blanked the Cubs.

Cubs pitchers have committed 12 errors in the first 44 games, more than 30 percent of the team's total of 39 errors. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have only 15 total errors in their 42 games.

Zambrano said the only solution could be for Cubs pitchers to take more "PFPs," an acronym for pitchers' fielding practice.

"As a pitcher, you have to be a fielder," Zambrano said. "When we go back home, we're going to work on PFPs and everything."

Baker noted that a team still has to score to win, suggesting the error wasn't the reason the Cubs lost. Morris limited the Cubs to four hits as the Cardinals took their third of four games at Busch Stadium.

The Cubs are hitting .265 in their nine games without Sammy Sosa, scoring four or fewer runs in six of those games despite a 6-3 record. Subtract the 11-5 victory over Milwaukee and the Cubs are hitting .243 without Sosa in the lineup.

"It's always bad when you have your superstar out of the lineup," third baseman Lenny Harris said. "But we have to go with what we have. We have 25 guys here, so we just have to chip in and do the best we can until he gets back.

"Nobody feels bad about anything. We're still in first place, so we have nothing to feel ashamed about. Those guys just played better ball the last couple of days."

Morris (5-3) retired the last 11 batters he faced, making the Cubs look helpless. Of his 117 pitches, 82 were strikes.

"I don't see anything wrong with our approach," Baker said.

"Morris was throwing strikes. We hit some balls pretty good. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason. Sometimes the guy just pitches good."

Baker was looking for a split in the four-game series "so we can get over this 'we don't win in St. Louis' thing,'" he said. But the jinx lives on. The Cardinals are 11-2 against the Cubs at Busch since the start of last season, 23-4 since 2000.

Harris scoffed at the suggestion that it was the most difficult atmosphere in which to play.

"I'd rather play here than in Yankee Stadium," he said.

The Cubs make only one more trip to St. Louis, for three games Aug. 26-28.

"We can beat the Cardinals [in St. Louis]," Baker said. "We just didn't beat them this time."