Poor hitting, fielding sink Cubs to new low

Tribune staff reporter

After a team goes from bad to worse, what comes next?

The answer is Monday night's 11-1 loss to the Marlins, which qualifies as one of the Cubs' sorriest showings in a season full of pitiful efforts.

At least there were few who cared enough to witness it. When the game began after a 34-minute rain delay, there were less than 1,000 people at Pro Player Stadium. The final paid attendance was 7,412.

Cubs manager Don Baylor was asked if the loss was embarrassing.

"I would hope so," he replied. "It is to me. I know the preparation we put in every single day to not have outcomes like this."

The low point came in the fifth inning, when reliever Jeff Fassero faced five batters and gave up five hits.

Fassero's nightmare finally ended when Luis Castillo mercifully overran third base and allowed himself to be tagged for the third out. Otherwise the inning might have spilled into Tuesday morning.

As bad as their pitching was, the Cubs' offense was even worse. They were all but helpless against Florida's Michael Tejera, registering only three hits over seven innings.

Tejera, a 25-year-old lefty, drove in more runs (two) than he allowed (one). He struck out a career-high nine.

"He really had no command of one particular pitch," Baylor said. "His high breaking balls, to me, were hanging breaking balls. They were slow enough, but guys just swung and missed. I don't know how, but they missed."

Right-hander Carlos Zambrano provided the Cubs' only plus. Subbing for the injured Jason Bere, Zambrano pitched decently in his first start of the season.

The two runs he allowed in the second inning resulted from a double off third baseman Bill Mueller's outstretched glove, a hit batter, a sacrifice fly and two singles.

Zambrano would have escaped the fifth unscathed if not for a two-out error by shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who misfired on a force attempt, allowing two runners to score.

Zambrano then gave up an infield single before being pulled for Fassero, whose team-high ERA hit 6.82. He has not retired any of his last seven batters.

Even before having to witness his club's most lopsided loss in six weeks, Baylor was wary of facing the Marlins on the road. The Cubs fell to 1-6 at Pro Player Stadium under Baylor, including a devastating loss last September when Preston Wilson took Tom Gordon deep for a game-ending home run.

Baylor's Colorado teams also struggled in South Florida.

"Too many things have happened in this ballpark¬ówalk-off home runs, [Al] Leiter's no-hitter, the one that knocked us for a loop last year," he said.

"A lot of guys live in the area and there are a lot of distractions. Half of Venezuela was here for [Andres] Galarraga."

The Cubs came in with at least a half-dozen connections.

Gonzalez was born in Miami, Sammy Sosa purchased a two-story penthouse in nearby Williams Island, Moises Alou won a World Series ring on this field, Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca started their seasons with the Marlins and Larry Rothschild coached for Florida.

Think they're glad they came back Monday?

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