Like the weather, the Cubs (3-11) stayed ice-cold Friday, dropping their sixth straight game by a score of 9-4 to the Cincinnati Reds (6-8).
Game-time temperatures dipped into the 30s with the wind chill at Wrigley Field as a disastrous first inning doomed the Cubs and starter Chris Volstad.
After striking out Zack Cozart to lead off the game, Volstad allowed five straight batters to reach, resulting in four runs. The Reds stole two bases in the inning and the Cubs committed two errors -- one charged to Starlin Castro after a throw to second on an attempted steal got by him into center field and one on Marlon Byrd on a throw to third base later in the frame.
"After striking the first guy out, it kind of snow-balled," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Obviously an inning we didn't need at that point."
"One bad inning each of the last two starts," Volstad said. "This one happened to be the first inning, so it put me and the team in a huge hole to start the game off...It's disappointing because starting the game like that, the team is down 4-0 right away and it's hard to battle back."
The Cubs attempted to claw back with a couple of unearned runs in the third when Reds left fielder Chris Heisey dropped Castro's two-out fly ball on the warning track, allowing David DeJesus to score. Bryan LaHair, hitting cleanup for the first time this season, followed with a base hit.
But Volstad allowed the Reds on the board twice the very next inning, surrendering a two-out, two-run double to Drew Stubbs, who had three hits on the afternoon.
"The big hit of the game was Stubbs to put it 6-2 after we just scored," Sveum said. "That was kind of the back-breaker to the whole deal."
Cincinnati tacked on solo runs in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings to put the game away. Volstad is now winless in his last 14 starts, dating back to the middle of last season. He has seven losses and seven no-decisions in that span.
"That's the way the game is, I guess," Volstad said. "I just have to keep worrying about pitching...Just have to keep battling and get ready for St. Louis in my next start."
On a day when the Cubs received bad news regarding the health of veteran pitchers Kerry Wood (who was placed on the DL with right shoulder fatigue Friday) and Ryan Dempster (whose start Sunday is in doubt with a quad issue), the offense was snakebitten as well.
Despite hitting the ball hard all day, the Cubs had little to show for it, racking up just five hits and one earned run. Ian Stewart was especially unlucky, lining out hard three of his four times up.
"That's probably about the best we've swung the bat all year," Sveum said. "We hit the heck out of the ball all day, right at people and didn't get anything to show for it. A couple balls would have been home runs...Stewart didn't have anything to show for a really nice day at the plate.
"It was nice to see...We battled and swung the bats great."
Bryan LaHair led the Cubs offense with two hits -- including a double -- as well as an RBI and run scored. But he, too, was miffed by the Cubs' bad luck.
"I think everybody hit at least two balls hard," he said. "Tough break, tough game and we just have to keep doing it."