Volstad plagued by big inning(s) again

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Volstad plagued by big inning(s) again

By Paul LaTour
CSNChicago.com contributor

Hes not sure why it happens, but Chris Volstad cant seem to shake those big innings.

Volstad surrendered three runs in the second inning and two more in the fifth as the Cubs dropped a 5-1 decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.

Its probably more of an approach and execution, Volstad said. I dont know if that can be mental or what, but it could be mechanical, too. Its something weve got to look at because obviously theres something going on.

Volstad (0-4) allowed five earned runs on four hits with three walks and one strikeout in his five-inning stint. The loss extended his winless streak to 17 games, dating to July 17 of last season when he pitched for the Marlins.

All the damage against Volstad came in those two innings. He was perfect in the first, third and fourth.

Maybe I just need to not let anybody on base for the whole game, Volstad said. With runners on and from the stretch has been a struggle. Its no secret.

Meanwhile, the Cubs got nothing going after the first inning against Dodgers left-hander Chris Capuano, who improved to 4-0 with a sleek scoreless seven-inning performance. And his two-run double in the second was the games key hit.

The Cubs used only one hit to load the bases with one out in the first inning, but failed to score.

David DeJesus reached on a two-base error when Jerry Hairston and Dee Gordon collided over a pop up. After Joe Mather flew out, Starlin Castro singled to left and Bryan LaHair drew a walk.

But Alfonso Soriano struck out looking on a pitch that appeared to be inside.

Im a pretty aggressive hitter, but that ball was inside, Soriano said. He called a strike, so theres nothing else you can do.

Capuano then struck out Ian Stewart looking to end the threat. That started a string of eight consecutive batters Capuano retired, five by strikeout.

The way we got on base with the first batter of the game, I was thinking, Oh man, this could be a big day for us, said Soriano, who finished 0-for-4. (Then) the umpire makes a bad call, but that is part of the game.

The Dodgers responded to the Cubs first-inning threat by also loading the bases in the second. The difference being the Dodgers came through with three runs, including a two-run double by Capuano on his first hit of the season.

A sacrifice fly by Matt Treanor with the bases loaded scored Andre Ethier, who led off with a walk. Capuano followed with a drive to center that went to the wall, scoring Bobby Abreu and James Loney.

The Dodgers added to their lead with a two-run fifth. A pair of errors -- one by Volstad, the other by Castro -- and two walks aided the Dodgers cause.

Treanor led off with a single and scored on a Dee Gordon double. Gordon then scored on a sacrifice fly to deep center by Matt Kemp, making it 5-0.

It was kind of the same old, (Volstad was) efficient but just couldnt get the out when he had to, said manager Dale Sveum, who added Volstads spot in the rotation is secure. When stuff starts going on, he couldnt quite put anybody away to get out of that stuff.

Lendy Castillo replaced Volstad to start the sixth. In his first appearance since April 20, Castillo allowed one hit with no walks and one strikeout in two innings.

Carlos Marmol pitched the eighth, his first relief appearance since being demoted as closer. He walked Ethier and threw a wild pitch before getting the next three batters out.

With a pair of walks, LaHair has now reached base safely in a team-high 23 consecutive games. But his 10-game hitting streak ended after going 0-for-2.

Stewart drove home Castro with a two-out single in the ninth as the Cubs avoided being shut out for the first time this season.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Fremd's Grace Tworek

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Fremd's Grace Tworek

This week's Wintrust Athlete of the Week is Fremd senior Grace Tworek. 

Tworek has led the Vikings on and off the court this season. Last week, the Harvard commit put up a career-high 29 points in a win over Wheeling. 

Learn more about Tworek's success in the video above.