Another dugout drama with his starting pitcher and another defensive letdown on a crucial play added up to another frustrating night for Michael Barrett.
After an animated argument with left-hander Rich Hill early in Tuesday night's interleague game against Seattle, Barrett mishandled a throw from right-fielder Jacques Jones in the 13th inning, leading to a 5-3 loss at Wrigley Field.
Manager Lou Piniella blew off the media after the loss, stewing in his office while Barrett, Hill and Will Ohman faced the music in the clubhouse.
The Cubs appear to be a team on the verge of a breakdown, with Piniella in the middle with nowhere to hide.
Why should people believe this team can string together a prolonged hot streak when all the evidence suggests otherwise?
"We're not going to win every night," Derrek Lee said. "This is a game we should've won. We need to do a better job of that. We need to create the big streaks. We're not worried about people believing what we're going to do. We're trying to get it done. We're not getting it done now, but over the last 10 days I think we've been OK. If we keep playing like this, we'll be OK."
Tuesday's loss was another one for the books. After Ohman retired the first two batters in the 13th, Jose Vidro doubled off the top of the vines in left. Piniella ordered an intentional walk to Yuniesky Betancourt, before Willie Bloomquist singled sharply to right, sending Vidro scampering around third.
Jones' two-hop throw to Barrett was on target, but Barrett took his eye off the ball and mishandled it as Vidro ran past home. Before Barrett could locate it, Vidro circled back and touched home for the go-ahead run. The Mariners scored an insurance run off Ohman to make it 5-3, and the Cubs were toast.
"I saw him at third base, and I was going to make him run over me to touch home plate," Barrett said. "At the last second, I don't know, it either came out of my glove or I just took my eye off of it. I'll have to look at (the replay)."
Barrett's run-scoring single in the eighth tied the game 3-3, and the Cubs loaded the bases with no one out. But they couldn't bring home a run, and the game plodded into extra innings.
Hill was long gone by then, but he was involved in a familiar scene in the Cubs dugout early on, getting involved in an animated discussion with Barrett between innings after Seattle pitcher Jarrod Washburn singled home a run in the fourth. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild stepped in to calm Hill down, avoiding another made-for-ESPN scene as the TV cameras followed their every move.
Coming on the heels of the Barrett-Carlos Zambrano fight that occurred only 12 days earlier, the latest dugout drama is likely to fuel speculation that Barrett's days with the Cubs are numbered. If the No. 1 catcher can't get along with his pitchers, something has to give, and it's much easier to deal a catcher than a starting rotation.
Hill denied there was a problem, saying he was angry with himself.
"No, no, no," he said. "No disagreement. I just told him I was upset about the pitch. I just wish I made a better pitch to Washburn. He said 'Just hang in there and keep us where we're at and we're going to win this game.' "
Barrett talked around the subject, but conceded the talk was heated at times.
"It was the heat of the moment," Barrett said. "We just talked things through. Rich did a pretty good job overall. I think he was disappointed about hanging the slider to Washburn. It wasn't even a big deal. Whatever happened, I don't even know. We were just talking about pitch selection, and what we were going to do the next inning.
"Both him and I were fired up about that play, and you just move on."
Asked again about the incident, Hill stuck to his script.
"It's easy to get negative," Hill said. "That's the easy way out."
Mariners 5, Cubs 3 (13 innings)