Downhill roll accelerates

Chicago CubsNew York MetsJose ReyesAramis RamirezSportsBasketballTom Glavine

On his final day as a Cub, Mike Remlinger was asked Friday if manager Dusty Baker could do anything better to change the team's direction.

"I don't think that's my job to critique his performance," Remlinger said. "I think that if this team doesn't do what they're supposed to do, then it's going to come down to him. That's kind of the nature of this game, why I'm [designated for assignment]. Everything kind of rolls downhill a little bit.

"I don't have any simple answers, and I don't think anybody does, so I don't think you can really criticize a certain aspect of Dusty's managing. I just think for whatever reasons, things haven't clicked. That said, I think there's still a chance that they will and none of this will really matter in a couple months."

A few hours later the Cubs turned in another fundamentally challenged performance in a 9-5 loss to the New York Mets, dropping one game below .500 at 54-55 and into fourth place in the Central Division, a half-game behind Milwaukee.

The returns of Nomar Garciaparra, Kerry Wood and Scott Williamson did nothing to change the Cubs' fortunes. Left-hander Rich Hill allowed seven runs in 11/3 innings but was victimized by bad plays behind him.

"We didn't help him with a couple bad-judgment plays in the field," Baker said. "It opened up the gates."

Three fielding miscues put the Cubs in a 7-1 hole.

A pop fly by leadoff hitter Jose Reyes dropped between Todd Walker and Jeromy Burnitz in right, leading to a first-inning run. Walker then made an ill-advised throw to the plate on Tom Glavine's grounder with two on in the Mets' second, letting the third run score.

"In that situation, you have to try the double play," Baker said. "I know you want to stop the run from scoring, but you have to take the outs when you can get him. With Glavine running, we had a chance with the double play. We ended up with no outs with the big boys coming up."

One batter later Aramis Ramirez failed to cover third on Reyes' grounder, forcing Garciaparra to attempt a twisting throw to first. The speedy Reyes reached, keeping the rally alive.

"That was a bad inning," Baker said. "It started out bad and ended worse."

Glavine cruised with a six-run lead, lasting eight innings.

Garciaparra went 0-for-4, while Wood and Williamson combined for two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh. Wood pitched from the stretch and threw fastballs and sliders only. He may be forced into action again Saturday because the Cubs used five relievers.

"If they ask for me, I'll be ready," Wood said.

Last year's Astros were 56-60 on Aug. 15 but finished 36-10, overtaking the Cubs to win the NL wild-card spot.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry spoke to Baker and pitching coach Larry Rothschild on Friday morning and said they "were a little bit down in the dumps" about the losses in Philadelphia. Hendry reminded them of the 2003 Cubs.

"Two years ago today, I told them, we were two games above and got on a heck of a run," he said. "It's time. We have a lot of work to do."

That job got more difficult after Friday's loss, with six teams ahead of them for the wild card.

psullivan@tribune.com

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