One poor inning still haunts Cubs' Volstad

CHICAGO -- It could be mental and it might be mechanical, but it definitely keeps happening.

Like not being able to stop at just one potato chip, Chris Volstad gets a runner on base and can't stop adding more. The common link to each one of his outings seems to be that one meltdown inning.

In Saturday's 5-1 loss to the Dodgers it was the second inning. And while three runs allowed in the inning might not technically qualify as a meltdown, two of those runs came with two outs. And those two runs came on a double from the opposing pitcher, Chris Capuano.

“Runners on from the stretch has been a struggle; it’s no secret,” Volstad said. “That one inning. I just have to be better in those situations. That’s all it comes down to.”

He gave up just four hits in his five innings, but his two walks were also in that fateful second inning, although one was intentional to James Loney. The idea behind the free pass was that Volstad would then get to face the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, but both drove in runs (Matt Treanor had a sacrifice fly for the Dodgers’ first run).

“It might be pitching out of the stretch for some reason,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Not being as effective out of the stretch or he can't keep the ball down out of the stretch. Whatever it might be we've got to get it fixed.”

Volstad entered with a .444 opponents’ batting average with runners in scoring position and a .429 opponents’ batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Asked if he can feel the big inning coming and starts to get tense, Volstad couldn’t say for sure.

“No, not really,” he said at first about feeling anxiety. “I try not to at least, I guess. But again, it could be a relaxing thing out there. Just relax and get back to what I do from the windup and without runners on and just execute better pitches.”

Acquired in the offseason trade that sent Carlos Zambrano to the Miami Marlins, Volstad fell to 0-4 on the season with a 6.55 ERA, not exactly the best way to get a new fan base on your side. The tall righty insists, though, that he is throwing better than the numbers indicate.

“Yeah I really do,” he said. “I feel like everything is kind of bunched up together. If those four hits are spread out through the five innings and two of those walks aren’t in the same inning also... Yeah, everything is bunched up and it adds up quick.

“As far as how I feel physically and how my pitches are working and the break on my breaking balls has been getting better throughout the month, I definitely feel better than what it looks like.”

He will continue to get a chance to prove it since Sveum has no intention of pulling him out of the rotation.

“Yeah I think it's way too early for that, there's no question about it,” Sveum said. “It's just somehow getting through those innings. When people get on, for some reason he's having trouble getting out of that. Obviously when nobody's on, he's been pretty efficient in all of his innings when nobody's on base.”