Cubs' Guzman fizzles early

Chicago CubsCrime, Law and JusticeCrimeAngel GuzmanScott EyrePhiladelphia PhilliesNational League

If Cubs right-hander Angel Guzman turned the corner last week, he did a U-turn Monday night at PNC Park.

Guzman allowed eight runs on 10 hits in three innings of an 11-6 loss to Pittsburgh, forcing manager Dusty Baker to dip into his bullpen early again.

Derrek Lee drove in two runs in his return from a second stint on the disabled list, but the Cubs lost for the eighth time in nine games, tying their low-water mark of the year at 23 games under .500.

Cubs pitchers allowed a season-high 19 hits. The Pirates built a 9-1 lead for Ian Snell and hung on.

Guzman threw 93 pitches in three-plus innings, after Les Walrond was knocked out after 22/3 innings Sunday.

Guzman (0-4), who had held the Phillies to one run and four hits in six innings Wednesday, was not around to talk afterward, leaving his teammates to speak for him.

"I thought [Guzman] battled," Lee said. "We battled back. Try to take the positives out of [the] night."

"I thought the outcome of his performance really doesn't do justice to how he pitched," catcher Michael Barrett said. "They just put the ball in play and found the holes and got some runs early, and got his pitch count up early."

The Cubs' bullpen has improved in 2006, and its 4.06 ERA ranks eighth in the National League. But it has been overworked due to the lack of consistency from the young starters, including Guzman. The Cubs are second to Philadelphia with 431 relief innings.

"We tried to go as long as we could with [Guzman]," Baker said. "Our bullpen is just pitched out. You get a couple back-to-back games with early departures, and that puts a lot of pressure on the bullpen. These guys are really hanging by a thread."

Scott Eyre's absence has been noticeable since he went on the disabled list, while Ryan Dempster has been practically invisible since Aug. 19, when he was yanked in the ninth inning against St. Louis.

Dempster made his second mopup appearance since then, giving up two runs on four hits in the eighth. The Cubs haven't had any leads in the ninth to save lately.

"That's why he was in in the eighth," Baker said. "We've got to get him some work. It is tough on him, because we're going to need him, and we need him to be sharp. Hopefully [Monday] will get him sharp for a needed save situation [Tuesday]."

psullivan@tribune.com

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