Scoreless stretch ends, skid continues

In a display of offensive ineptitude that has grown in stunning proportions over the last week, the Cubs lost their fifth straight game Saturday night by going 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position in a 2-1, 10-inning loss to San Diego.

Rob Bowen's leadoff home run off Bob Howry in the 10th inning gave San Diego its seventh straight win, spoiling a brilliant night for rookie left-hander Sean Marshall.

"Marshall pitched great," manager Dusty Baker said. "We left a lot of guys out there. We had a lot of chances. We're just not getting that hit at the right time."

After going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position in Friday's 1-0, 11-inning loss, the Cubs are now 0-for-20 in that category in the series and hitting a measly .071 with runners in scoring position while losing seven of their last eight and falling one game under .500 at 14-15.

Marshall has been a bright light during a particularly dark period for the Cubs, continuing to prove he's got the stuff to become a bonafide big league star. He carried a no-hitter in the sixth inning of Saturday night's game against San Diego in Petco Field, but left with a no-decision when the Padres tied the game 1-1 in the sixth.

In his fourth straight dominant performance, Marshall allowed one run on three hits over six innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh. Over his last four starts, Marshall has allowed four earned runs on 11 hits over 25 1/3 innings, compiling a 1.42 ERA.

Saturday's performance was the best yet. Marshall's curve was untouchable the first five innings, and he had a 1-0 lead in the sixth before Eric Young snapped the no-hit bid with one out on a sharp single to left. Mike Cameron followed with an infield hit, beating Marshall to the bag when the rookie got a late start off the mound on a slow roller to first baseman Todd Walker.

With runners on first and second and one out, Brian Giles singled to right on a 3-1 pitch, scoring Young to tie the game at 1-1 and advancing Cameron to third. After inducing Mike Piazza to hit a foul pop-up and walking Mark Bellhorn to load the bases, Marshall got Khalil Greene to hit a first-pitch changeup to right field, ending the inning and the kid's night.

The Cubs came into the game with a scoreless innings drought of 25 straight, and extended it to 28 consecutive innings before Aramis Ramirez homered on an 0-2 pitch from Jake Peavy leading off the fourth. The drought was the longest by any Cubs team since the '92 club went 36 straight innings without a run from April 27-May 1.

With Piazza behind the plate, the Cubs ran all night, racking up five steals off the veteran catcher in the first six innings before he was replaced on a double-switch. But the Cubs continuously failed to bring home runners in scoring position.

Jacque Jones was inserted into the clean-up position, but went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.

"I'm just trying to plug along, trying to get better every day," Jones said. "I thought I was making some progress, but I just ruined it... Tonight I was in position to help the team win, and I didn't do it at all. The guys were busting their tails, and I didn't do anything to help them."

The Cubs have been outscored 47-6 in their last eight games and are hitting .209 in that stretch. Baker was at a loss for words afterwards about the collective inability of the Cubs lineup to come up with a clutch hit.

"If I knew the answer, we wouldn't be in this situation," Baker said. "There's not a whole lot to say."