To the untrained eye the Cubs may look like they're struggling. But Sammy Sosa said Thursday he believes they're playing much better than people think.
After Atlanta thrashed the Cubs 13-3 Thursday in the first of a four-game series at Wrigley Field, Sosa blamed the media for painting a bleak picture of the Cubs.
"This ballclub is great," Sosa said. "It's not like we're out of the race. You guys talk like we're finished. We're only a game or a game-and-a-half behind. The Diamondbacks were about 10 games out and now they're coming back.
"You guys don't want us to be in the pennant race? Or to win the division? We aren't finished yet. It's only one game. We've been playing hard every day. We need some more support from [the media]."
The Cubs are 9-16 since June 12 and have scored three or fewer runs in 14 of those 25 games.
The Braves, who have won seven in a row, broke a 3-3 tie with a three-run sixth off Shawn Estes (6-8), then feasted on Kyle Farnsworth and Antonio Alfonseca for two innings to turn it into a laugher.
Alfonseca has given up at least one run in seven of his last eight appearances, recording an 18.91 ERA since June 25. He has allowed 15 runs on 19 hits in 72/3 innings, which prompted loud booing from the crowd of 38,756 upon Alfonseca's arrival and exit.
"No one can handle booing but me," Sosa said. "You have to be strong physically and mentally. Some guys it's going to affect more than others. He deserves an opportunity."
Greg Maddux allowed two earned runs in six innings for the victory, while Vinny Castilla went 4-for-4 with four RBIs.
Run-scoring singles by Tom Goodwin and Sosa put the Cubs on top 3-2 in the third. But Maddux (7-8) left the bases loaded by striking out Alex Gonzalez and the Braves tied it on Castilla's homer leading off the fifth. Atlanta knocked out Estes in the three-run sixth, which began with back-to-back walks.
"It boils down to one thingjust don't walk them," Estes said. "You have to make them put the ball in play. We had 3-3 going into the sixth, and if I shut them down I just didn't do my job."
The only consolation for the Cubs is they play in a weak division.
"That's how it has been," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.
Baker, who spent spending most of his career in the West Division, added, "We couldn't figure out why this [Central] Division always had the lowest amount of victories. But there's pretty good parity in this division. Every team has strengths, and every team has some weaknesses.
"I don't know if anybody is ever really going to pull away, really, unless they make some blockbuster trade or get a couple of extra guys to fill whatever weaknesses they have. Right now we're just happy the division is close.
"If the division is close and you're in the race, then you have as good a chance as anybody to get hot and hopefully pull away at some point."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times