A change of scenery might be the best thing for the Cubs right now. It couldn’t hurt after the disastrous stretch of games they just completed at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs offense remained in late-summer hibernation as they fell 1-0 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday at Wrigley Field, capping the Dodgers’ four-game sweep and leaving the Cubs with one win on their eight-game home stand.
It was the Dodgers’ first sweep of four game or more games at Wrigley since winning a five-game series from July 14 through 18, 1988. The Cubs were shut out for the second consecutive game and for the eighth time this season.
They haven’t scored in a span of 23 innings -- since the fourth inning of Friday’s 6-2 loss to the Dodgers.
[WATCH: Cubs just have to figure it out]
“We got shut out three times in (eight) games at home, and scored two in (two other ones),” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “It’s very difficult, obviously, to win unless you’re scoring runs.”
Righthander Carlos Villanueva (2-8) was the hard-luck loser despite allowing only one run and two hits in six innings of work. But the offense stranded nine runners, and left the bases loaded in the sixth inning.
“We didn’t have a whole lot going on, but that was obviously a chance, bases loaded with one out,” Sveum said. “And we didn’t get the job done again.”
The Dodgers pushed across their run in the second after Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier drew leadoff walks from Villanueva. A.J. Ellis followed with a single to center that scored Ramirez from second without a throw.
Villanueva escaped further damage by retiring the next three batters in order. He notched four more consecutive outs, and finished by setting aside 15 of the final 17 hitters he faced.
Despite the strong effort, Villanueva wasn’t about to let it gloss over another Cubs loss.
“What good is it if we don’t win,” said Villanueva, who is winless in his past 11 starts. “Individual (numbers) are for agents and fans and whoever cares about the numbers that way. For us we want a win. It doesn’t matter if we win 15-14 and everybody gives up runs, or it’s 1-0 and nobody hits. We want to win.”
After throwing 26 pitches in the second and 43 through two innings, Villanueva started taking advantage of the 15 mph wind blowing into Wrigley for most of the game. Ten of the last 15 outs he got came on fly balls to the outfield.
“I don’t pitch to conditions,” Villanueva said. “I pitch to the best of my ability.”
The only blemishes during the stretch were a one-out double ripped to left-center by Ethier in the fourth, and a leadoff walk to Mark Ellis in the sixth. However, the Dodgers advanced neither baserunner and settled for their 1-0 lead to that point.
Villanueva walked three and struck out five in six innings, throwing 101 pitches.
The Cubs put runners on base in nearly every inning against right-hander Stephen Fife, who returned from a stint on the disabled list to replace scheduled starter Zach Greinke.
Twice the Cubs had a runner on third but both times it came with two outs and Dioner Navarro batting. In the first with runners on second and third, Navarro grounded out to second. In the third with runners on the corners, he grounded out to third.
The Cubs came even closer to scoring in the sixth, but instead their offensive woes continued. Navarro and Nate Schierholtz opened with back-to-back singles before Cod Ransom struck out on a pitch high and inside.
But two pitches earlier, Ransom ripped the ball down the left-field line that went foul just before reaching the corner.
Logan Watkins, a call-up from Triple-A Iowa earlier Sunday, followed with a bloop single just over the glove of shortstop Hanley Ramirez to load the bases with one out. It was Watkins’ first hit in his major-league debut, and chased Fife.
Reliever Chris Withrow then retired Donnie Murphy on a high pop fly to short before getting pinch-hitter Cole Gillespie to ground out to first.
“We gave ourselves opportunities today and we just didn’t come through,” said Anthony Rizzo, who went 1-for-4 and struck out twice, including once when it appeared he was hit by a pitch. “It’s pretty annoying, outhitting teams and not scoring runs. We just have to figure it out.”
Fife (4-3) allowed seven hits and two walks with five strikeouts in picking up the win. Kenley Jansen struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 17th save as the red-hot Dodgers set a franchise record with their 14th consecutive road victory.