The Cubs began the season with a balanced lineup that included seven position players who have had at least one season with 15 or more home runs.
But with Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Walker out indefinitely and Michael Barrett on the bench, the lineup the Cubs used Thursday in a 4-0 loss to St. Louis looked about as powerful as a 9-volt battery.
For the second time in his last three starts, Ryan Dempster allowed only one run but left after six innings with the Cubs trailing 1-0. They wound up with only seven singles, failing to get a leadoff man on base in any inning as Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter shut them out.
"Sometimes you get outpitched," Dempster said. "He threw very well against us last year. That guy can pitch."
The Cubs' iPod lineup went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, failing to capitalize on opportunities in the first, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
They entered the game with a .191 team average with runners in scoring position and less than two outs, a category that clearly is driving manager Dusty Baker crazy in the early going.
"We had opportunities early to get the lead," Baker said. "We just have to get better getting those runners home from third base with less than two outs. Usually, when you don't do that, it's tough to win."
Trailing 1-0 in the sixth, the Cubs appeared to get a big break when Corey Patterson hit into an apparent inning-ending double play. But a catcher's interference call wiped that out, leaving runners on first and second with one out.
A wild pitch advanced the runners, but Aramis Ramirez struck out on pitch well outside the zone, and Jeromy Burnitz flied to center to end the threat.
Ramirez, whose importance in the lineup is magnified with Garciaparra and Walker out, is hitting .200 (5-for-25) with runners in scoring position and .154 with runners in scoring position and fewer than two outs.
Ramirez wasn't the only one having a bad day against Carpenter (3-1), who got ahead of most hitters and kept them off balance all afternoon. Starting the ninth inning, Ramirez and Burnitz both flied out on the first pitch, a recurring theme for the Cubs.
"The majority of us are fastball hitters," Todd Hollandsworth said. "And we were trying to put ourselves in position to get him in trouble."
Dempster (1-3) kept the Cubs in the game for six innings, allowing one run on four hits in his third straight strong outing. But after Michael Wuertz retired all four batters he faced, Baker opted to insert left-hander Mike Remlinger to face left-handed-hitting Larry Walker with one out in the eighth.
Walker, batting a career .444 against Remlinger, promptly homered on a 2-1 pitch to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. Left-handed hitters are batting .364 off Remlinger this year after combining for a .303 average against off him in 2004.
"Larry is not swinging good," Baker said. "Wuertz is not as good against lefties as he is righties. Even though I know Larry hits Rem pretty good, he wasn't swinging good."
Baker then replaced Remlinger with Chad Fox, who gave up a double to Albert Pujols and a two-out, two-run homer to Scott Rolen on a 3-2 pitch. Rolen's blast put the game completely out of reach and left the Cubs at .500 again at 8-8.
Baker said he won't accept any "self-pity" from the club after the loss of Garciaparra. Dempster said the Cubs are confident the offense will click, despite no visible signs of life.
"Regardless of what he was hitting, anytime you lose a guy like [Garciaparra], that's huge," Dempster said. "Somebody, hopefully, will get the opportunity to play well when he's out. The nice part is we haven't played our best baseball, and we're sitting here 8-8."
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