<
>

Cubs' pitchers struggle with control

CHICAGO -- The topic of the day for the Cubs was a critical blown call by umpire Larry Barrett in the eighth inning. However, there was more than just poor umpiring at Wrigley, there was also some poor control by the pitchers, particularly Randy Wells and Kerry Wood.

“You warm up, you come out and try to establish a plan, I think it’s pretty obvious what went wrong,” Wells said. “First hitter of the game, you try to nibble, it’s just not a good plan to go with.”

Wells walked Emilio Benifacio to start the game, then followed that up by serving up a home run to Greg Dobbs. Wells allowed another home run to Hanley Ramirez before finally getting out of the inning down 3-0.

“The change-ups been very inconsistent, the sinker’s been very inconsistent,” Wells said. “[I’m] starting a lot of guys off 2-0 instead of just challenging guys. I think it’s just trying to be too fine is the big thing, instead of just going after guys, cutting loose and letting things to work for you in your favor.”

Wells has a 6.71 ERA on the season. After walking 2.5 and 2.9 batters per nine innings in 2009 and 2010 respectively, Wells BB/9 has ballooned to 4.3 in 2011.

Wells bounced back after the rough first, allowing only one more run while getting through six innings. His manager Mike Quade was pleased to see his struggling pitcher not allow a rough start affect him throughout the game.

“The main thing for me today was he didn’t pack it in after the first inning,” Quade said. “He kept fighting and battling through some tough times.”

Wells, who allowed eight hits and three walks while searching for his control all day, isn’t only lacking his best stuff, he also admitted his confidence isn’t where it should be.

“Coming back from an injury, I never use that as an excuse, but you go from a nice groove in spring training, to a pretty serious injury, to coming back off rehab starts,” Wells said. “Just the trust and the swagger . . . hasn’t been there. [I’m] trying to talk my way through things rather than going out there and let the pitches do the talking.”

Wood was stung by a blown call that would have gotten him out of the eighth inning unscathed. However, outside of the bad break he didn’t look very sharp, allowing three runs on two hits and three walks, while hitting a batter and uncorking a wild pitch in his one inning pitched.

Quade admitted that Wood’s curveball, which is normally a devastating pitch for the veteran reliever, hasn’t been as crisp of late. Wood has now pitched six and 1/3 innings since returning from the disabled list July 1. He’s allowed six runs, six hits, seven walks, and hit two batters during that time.

With the Cubs now 20 games under .500 and battling the Houston Astros for the worst record in the league, Wood was asked if the team still believes they can get on a winning track.

“I think we have to,” Wood said after a long pause that may have been more telling than his words. “We haven’t won three in a row yet. August is right around the corner, so that says it all.”