Injuries mount as Cubs fall short again

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And for their latest trick, the Cubs' starting lineup Sunday included:

A first baseman who had played there only once, nine years ago.

A catcher who had one major-league at-bat.

Four players with a major-league total of 370 games, which is 2,569 fewer than the Giants' Barry Bonds.

A lineup with a season total of 76 home runs, equal to the combined output of the White Sox's Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome.

A pitcher who had never won a big-league game, which was 126 fewer than the Giants' Jason Schmidt.

The only surprise was how close the final score was: Giants 7, Cubs 4.

Other than that, Sunday was full of the expected. It featured another Bonds home run, his second in two days and 729th of his career; two mysterious new injuries to Cubs; another baserunning gaffe by a youngster; and another ninth-inning run allowed by reliever Ryan Dempster.

"We're outnumbered, big-time," manager Dusty Baker said of his roster situation. "When we play the Giants, they have more [pitchers] in the bullpen and twice as many guys on the bench.

"You hate to be outnumbered anytime, especially now in September. There's a lot of things you can't do."

Part of the Cubs' problem is that 33 members of the 40-man big-league roster are already with the club, including six on the disabled list. That leaves seven eligible minor-league players left, and one of them, catcher Jose Reyes, will join the team shortly from Triple-A Iowa.

Fortunately, the Cubs lost only one player Sunday. That was catcher Michael Barrett, who could miss the rest of the season after groin surgery.

It could have been worse.

Starting pitcher Angel Guzman was not considered seriously hurt after leaving with a cramp in his right forearm one out away from being eligible for his first big-league victory.

And outfielder Jacque Jones is considered day-to-day after being removed from the game with an infected tear duct in his left eye.

No wonder Baker was pondering his lineup late Saturday night, especially with Derrek Lee scheduled for a day off.

"I had like eight of them," Baker said.

He settled for catcher Henry Blanco at first base, Geovany Soto at catcher and youngsters Ronny Cedeno at short, Ryan Theriot at second and Matt Murton in left field. They went a combined 4-for-16, including Soto's first major-league hit.

The results were somewhat predictable.

One day after Theriot was picked off first base in the ninth inning, Cedeno was thrown out trying to advance to second on a ball that eluded Giants catcher Eliezer Alfonzo. That happened in Sunday's eighth inning, when the Cubs pulled within two and had two runners on base.

Theriot and Cedeno were the potential tying runs.

"That's very disheartening, especially for young guys who are hustling and trying to make things happen," Baker said.

So Baker is left trying to mix and match his lineup, both for the future of the franchise and his own future, which are not always the same.

"We're trying to play all the kids," he said. "Do you play the same kids every day, or do you mix it up? "If you're going to give a true assessment to everybody, you can't have guys sitting around for two, three, four days.

"I try to do what I can to have the best lineup and to win at the same time."