Baseball / Sports

Lincecum, Giants blank punchless Cubs

SAN FRANCISCO -- Several Cubs point to their 19 losses in one- and two-run decisions as a case that they're not as bad as their 19-32 record indicates.

But it's becoming more apparent with each loss, regardless of the margin, that the Cubs are just good enough to lose.

They were no-hit for 61/3 innings Wednesday as the Giants pulled away to a 5-0 victory that showcased their credentials as the best team in the National League.

While the Cubs lamented the missed opportunities during a 32-pitch first inning against Tim Lincecum, the Giants (34-19) relied on clutch hitting in the sixth and seventh to snap a scoreless tie and support the two-hit pitching of Lincecum and five relievers.

After scoring eight runs Monday to give ace Jeff Samardzija his first victory, the Cubs have gone scoreless in their last 20 innings as they were blanked in consecutive games for the first time since the Yankees swept them in a doubleheader April 16.

They also were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, with Nate Schierholtz capping a 10-pitch at-bat by lining out to first with runners at second and third an apt symbol of their frustrations.

"When that ball starts hitting grass, that's when our team starts taking off," said John Baker, who snapped the Giants' no-hit bid with a single off reliever Jeremy Affeldt for the first of the Cubs' two hits. "It has been like that the whole season."

Nevertheless, they're batting .202 with runners in scoring position, thus wasting performances like the nine-strikeout effort from Edwin Jackson (3-5).

Several Cubs players, led by Baker and pitcher Carlos Villanueva, are convinced the offense will pick up once the weather turns consistently warm.

"It's a testament to us that you get beat 5-0 and you feel like you get blown out," Baker said. "That's what it feels like for me right now. A lot of our games have been 4-2, 4-3, 5-4, 1-0, 2-1. We've been in so many games this season, it's not like we've been dominated all the time.

"Our pitching has stepped up, and I'm hoping as the weather turns in the Midwest, our bats will start to turn around so we can help guys like Samardzija and Edwin and (Travis) Wood get some wins when they pitch well."

With nearly one-third of the season elapsed, the Cubs may be running out of time to prove their contention that they're not a last-place-caliber team.

That challenge is all the greater now as they fell to 3-4 at the start of a stretch in which they will play 20 of 26 games away from Wrigley Field.

"We have to keep grinding," pitcher Jason Hammel said. "We have four months left. It's a long time. Things will start to show very true, but overall we're not going to change our game plan too much. Our identity, whether or not we win more games, will be truer. But we're going to keep playing the same way.

"Close ballgames, and then winning on the road. Those are true tests, and they'll tell you what kind of ballclub you have."

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