Crushed by Cardinals, Cubs say it won't be last year again

Crushed by Cardinals, Cubs say it won't be last year again
April 12, 2014, 7:00 pm
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ST. LOUIS — The Cubs say this isn’t a 2013 rerun.

But for all of Rick Renteria’s let’s-keep-fighting, don’t-quit messaging, the Cubs manager can’t fix everything with his power of positive thinking. There are no closer controversies when you’re down seven runs in the fourth inning.

The St. Louis Cardinals cruised to a 10-4 victory on Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium, knocking out Carlos Villanueva after three innings and restoring order to the rivalry in front of 45,302 fans.

“You can’t compare,” said Villanueva, who gave up nine runs on 10 hits. “Last year is last year. There’s different personnel. You don’t want to have a negative mindset.”

The Cubs are 4-7 and have already lost four one-run games. They have bullpen issues and a lineup that will struggle to score runs and waste good starting pitching. They have a brutal early schedule. They will keep getting questions about the trade deadline sell-off and the ups and downs of their young players.

“Thinking about stuff like that just puts negative thoughts into people’s heads,” Villanueva said. “We haven’t even played the first 15 days yet. We won a good game yesterday and lost today, but we have a chance to win a series tomorrow. That’s as simple as we have to look at it. Because if not, then negative things creep in.”

[MORE: MLB Draft: Cubs GM Jed Hoyer keeping an open mind]

Something looks different when Emilio Bonifacio (.480 on-base percentage) runs all over the field and puts pressure on the other team. Jeff Samardzija (1.29 ERA in three starts) is beginning to resemble someone who could start Game 1 of a playoff series. Starlin Castro is hitting .326 and appears to be playing with a new defensive focus.

“There’s more intensity in every game,” Castro said. “We got good energy in the dugout.”

Just called up from Triple-A Iowa, Chris Rusin looked sharp against the Cardinals (6-5), allowing one run across five innings in relief of Villanueva. Rusin will go back down to the minors to keep starting, with Blake Parker expected to join the Cubs bullpen on Sunday in St. Louis. Rusin will be waiting if — when? — the Cubs trade away 40 percent of their rotation again.

“It’s just frustrating because I do feel like we’ve played good baseball this year,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “For me, it’s less about the fast start or the record. Ultimately, 10 games is not going to (make or break us). This is like the equivalent of one football game, right?”

The Cubs shouldn’t be covered like an NFL team on a 16-game schedule, but the trend lines will be hard to ignore. They played hard for Dale Sveum, too.

“The sad thing is we should be talking right now about how well we’re playing and we’re playing good competition,” Hoyer said. “That’s really the negative of some bullpen failures or taking away from what really has been a pretty good team effort.”