CHICAGO -- Although Chicago Cubs' starter Ryan Dempster gave up six runs in three innings in yet another disheartening loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday, manager Mike Quade seemed to place blame on his young middle infielders whom he felt set the tone for the lethargic performance in the 97-degree heat.
Quade had a lengthy postgame meeting with shortstop Starlin Castro and second baseman Darwin Barney. The topic of the conversation was the second play of the game on which Castro lost a Michael Martinez popup in the sun. The play was recorded a hit in the box score.
"I was disappointed with the start (of the game)," Quade said. "And I needed to talk to kids in the middle of the diamond about that. We set a bad tone, (losing a)ball in the sun. (They) are communicating all the way. But I look back at this whole game and look at that play. The sun's been in the same spot for however long Wrigley Field's been here. Those are the kind of mistakes ... there are some you accept. Others have to be taken care of."
Castro, the team's lone All-Star, has been called out by Quade on recent occasions for lapses in concentration. The manager was unable to hide his displeasure with the two infielders for the botched play.
"Those are two talented kids in the middle of the diamond," Quade said. "We make enough mistakes. But it's so important for those guys to play well in the middle. Everything goes through them, so if we're going to be better at pitching, we have to be better in the middle."
Barney refused to blame his teammate for the miscue. The rookie of the year candidate took his manger's criticism in stride.
"I agree with him 100 percent," Barney said. "(He and Castro) handle every ball, relays, throws into the infield. Everything goes through us. We have to be more energized. You look at this team and you say to yourself that you have to decided 'how can we be better?'"
So what could Barney have done differently on the play?
"I'd rather not talk about that," he said, after taking a few seconds to consider the question.
Defensive lapses have become the norm for the Cubs of late.
First baseman Carlos Pena misplayed a Jimmy Rollins grounder in the fourth inning, and he made a second error on the play with a bad throw. With that play, the Cubs, who lead the majors in errors, extended their streak of consecutive games with an error to nine. It's their longest such streak in 24 years.
After Wednesday's loss, the Cubs are on pace for 98 losses. They are 21 games under .500 for the first time since Aug. 31, 2010.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com.