The Cubs got back to the business of baseball Tuesday night after a brief interruption for the clean-up from Hurricane Z.
One day after Carlos Zambrano's sharp postgame criticism of Cubs fans, Steve Trachsel reintroduced himself to the semi-friendly confines of Wrigley Field with a strong six-inning outing in his first start since arriving in a trade from Baltimore.
But the Cubs wound up losing 6-2 to the Los Angeles Dodgers, tightening up an already snug National League Central race with Milwaukee and St. Louis.
The Brewers moved to within a half-game of the Cubs with a victory over Houston, while the Cardinals are only one game back after beating Pittsburgh.
The Cubs hit into five double plays Tuesday night, leading manager Lou Piniella to threaten a change to a speedier lineup. They were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and managed only two runs in seven innings off Dodgers ace Brad Penny (15-4).
"The problem that we're having here is we're not getting hits with men on base," Piniella said. "That's a problem. And we don't have much speed. I've been thinking, we might just go to the speed club that we have and try it that way, but we have to start scoring more runs."
The Cubs don't have much speed off the bench, though Felix Pie, Mike Fontenot and newcomer Sam Fuld are all available. The problem is Pie is hitting .215, Fontenot is hitting .203 since July 1 and Fuld never has played in a major-league game.
Derrek Lee grounded into a double play in the first after Alfonso Soriano and Ryan Theriot had back-to-back singles, and the Cubs' offense never got untracked after that.
"Sometimes I think we need to be more aggressive and go for the throat," Lee said.
In what way?
"Sometimes you can settle for getting a guy over, which is good fundamental baseball," he said. "But sometimes it's all right to be aggressive, try to score all the runs, really put some pressure on the other team."
In his return to Wrigley, Trachsel did just enough to keep the Cubs in the game. He allowed three runs on seven hits in his six-inning stint, including four straight two-out hits in the Dodgers' two-run fifth, when they took a 3-1 lead.
It could have been worse, if Soriano hadn't thrown out Juan Pierre at home as he tried to score from second on Matt Kemp's RBI single, the first of two runners Soriano threw out at the plate.
Trachsel was satisfied with his outing, and the reaction he received.
"It was nice to run out to center field and everyone in the bleachers was cheering for me," he said. "It was a lot of fun. It's fun to pitch in games like that."
The Cubs came back against Penny in the sixth, pulling to within a run on Daryle Ward's run-scoring double over Pierre's head in center and putting runners on the corners with one out. But Jacque Jones hit into an inning-ending double play. He went 0-for-4 with two double plays, leaving him with a .214 average (6-for-28) on the homestand.
Kerry Wood gave up two runs in the seventh, Will Ohman loaded the bases in the eighth before leaving to boos and Kevin Hart forced in a run with a walk in his major-league debut before throwing two scoreless innings.
It was easy to forget Tuesday that the Cubs were even in a pennant race, considering all the pregame focus was on Zambrano after his meeting with team President John McDonough and GM Jim Hendry.
"We had a rough day," Hendry said before the game, referring to the fallout from the latest Zambrano imbroglio.
The Cubs are 4-4 on the homestand and only .500 (24-24) since July 14. They haven't won more than two games in a row since a three-game streak Aug. 16-18.
"Hopefully we can right the ship here before we get ourselves in trouble," Theriot said.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times