Dodgers inherit the wind

Since 1914 the wind has blown in at Wrigley Field, so you might think the Cubs would have it mastered.

Obviously they still have some work to do after Friday's 8-1 loss to the Dodgers dropped their record to 13-10 when the wind is off Lake Michigan.

Meanwhile the Dodgers seem to be quick learners. Instead of fighting futilely against the northeast breeze, they poked 14 hits through the Cubs' infield, only one of them for extra bases.

The Cubs swung for the fences and got only six hits, leaving eight runners stranded and wasting another fine performance by Greg Maddux, who left with a 2-1 deficit and had nothing to do with a nightmarish six-run ninth inning.

It was a good game gone bad, all of which turned 39,105 fans at the supposedly Friendly Confines into unabashed boobirds at a hit-and-miss offense that has trouble putting rallies together.

The Cubs seemed frustrated by the conditions, but part of the problem may have been their 30-15 advantage in home runs when the wind blows in.

"Frustration isn't going to solve the problem," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We've just got to get some base hits with runners in scoring position. Not the home-run ball necessarily, but some base hits and string them back-to-back-to-back."

The Cubs put eight runners on and stole two bases in the first six innings but scored only one run. Five times they hit flyballs into the teeth of the wind with runners on.

The Dodgers? They had seven runners on in the first six innings and scored two of them. And that was before things fell apart in the ninth, when the Dodgers used five singles, two Cubs errors and a walk to put an exclamation point to the statement of why they are in first place in the N.L. West.

The winner was Odalis Perez (6-4), a former teammate of Maddux's in Atlanta.

"It was a pitcher's day. The balls weren't flying like they usually do," Baker said. "Sammy (Sosa) would have had a home run to give us the lead if not for the wind."

Instead, Sosa's long fly with two runners on in the fifth inning was an easy out to center field.

Maddux pitched well enough to win, if not for another poor offensive performance.

"It was a tough day to hit," he said in defense of his offense. "Sometimes you've got to tip your hat. Odalis Perez pitched a good game. I got out-pitched."

Maddux, who hadn't lasted more than six innings in any of his previous three starts, made it through 61/3 this time, leaving with the bases loaded and that one-run deficit. Kent Mercker finished the inning with no runs, although it took a marvelous second-straight-day,catch-and-throw double play by center fielder Corey Patterson to get him out of it.

Patterson also ended the eighth inning with a catch-and-throw double play when Adrian Beltre tried to go from second to third on a fly to center.

Maddux (11-8) was responsible for first- and sixth-inning runs, which actually lowered his earned-run average to 3.94.

In the first Cesar Izturis led off with a walk, then stole second and was sacrificed to third before Milton Bradley's infield single brought him home. In the sixth Izturis' leadoff double and seeing-eye singles by Steve Finley and Bradley gave the Dodgers a one-run lead.

And then came the ninth inning from hell, which took a nice little 2-1 ballgame and turned it into a horror show.

The Dodgers scored six runs on five hits, with the help of errors by Moises Alou and Michael Barrett, who dropped a soft toss from Kyle Farnsworth on what should have been a double-play ball.

How bad was the ninth inning? Reliever Glendon Rusch faced three batters and all three reached base and scored; Farnsworth faced four batters and all four reached base but only three scored, thanks to Jon Leicester's mopup.

"It would be nice," Barrett said in summing it up, "to manufacture a couple of runs early in the game to give our [pitchers] a cushion to fall back on."