MIAMI -- The Cubs began their first road trip with a confidence-boosting win over the defending World Series champions, and ended it Thursday with suitcases full of dirty laundry and a sputtering offense.Greg Dobbs hit a two-run double to back Ricky Nolasco and lift the Marlins to a 5-3 victory over the Cubs, who finished the junket 1-5.
"It's tough," Chicago's David DeJesus said of the five-game skid and overall 3-10 record. "We come to the field to win the games. It's not like we're coming to hang out and have fun. We just have to get better as a team. We have to focus and take every at-bat the way professionals do. I feel that will lead to better innings and W's in the win column."Jeff Samardzija (2-1) took the loss in the shortest outing by a Cubs starter this season, lasting 3 2/3 innings. He deflected Logan Morrison's liner off the meaty portion of his right hand in the fourth but stayed in to strike out Giancarlo Stanton and was then pulled.
"I should've caught it," Samardzija said. "That was the least of my worries."
The problem was a lack of first-pitch strikes. In Samardzija's first start of the year against the Nationals, he threw first-pitch strikes to all but five of the 31 batters he faced. On Thursday, he did so for 12 of the 21 batters faced.
"Strike one hasn't been as easy lately," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "It changes things around a lot, especially against an aggressive team."
"I just wasn't attacking the zone enough," Samardzija said. "I know they're a pretty aggressive team, and we want to take advantage of that. That went against my normal game plan of being aggressive."Miami took a 2-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Morrison and a run-scoring groundout by Stanton, but the Cubs answered in the second when Bryan LaHair walked and scrambled to third just in time on Geovany Soto's single. Two outs later, DeJesus walked to load the bases, and Darwin Barney cleared them with a triple. It was the type of inning Sveum has been looking for.
"We got some things going," Sveum said. "It's unfortunate -- we hit a lot of balls hard or deep. They're playing in the same field, and they have to deal with this field the whole year, as we deal with the wind and stuff like that [at Wrigley Field]. The swings were good. Barney came up with a huge hit, and we couldn't capitalize on it."DeJesus flew out to center twice on balls that might leave other ballparks. Opposing teams take note: Marlins Park is huge.
"That's the way the field plays," DeJesus said. "All I can do is put a good swing on it and hit the ball hard."
The Cubs loaded the bases again in the third, aided by an intentional walk to Marlon Byrd, but Samardzija flied out to right to end that inning. The Marlins didn't miss an opportunity with two on in the third, as Dobbs smacked a two-run double. One out later, Brett Hayes was intentionally walked, and Nolasco (2-0) helped himself with an RBI single for a 5-3 lead.
"I tried to keep battling and going as long as I could," Nolasco said. "The bullpen did a great job, getting everybody out. That was huge."
Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen used five relievers after Nolasco, and they did not allow a hit over 3 2/3 innings.
It's back to the drawing board for Samardzija.
"I'm not 100 percent disappointed," Samardzija said. "There are just things you have to work on."The same could be said for the rest of the team. The Cubs rank last in the Major Leagues in home runs and are 28th in the Majors in slugging percentage. Since their April 13 win over the Cardinals, they've been outscored, 34-10. They're not panicking; they just need some consistency in all facets of the game. "We've got to win, m*an," Samardzija said. "That's all there is to it. Pitchers have to pitch better, position players have to play their positions better. It's all around. There's not one thing we need to improve on -- everybody needs to improve. It starts with yourself, and for me, personally, I need to come out my next start and have a nice strong start."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.