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Cubs miss chances in loss to Cards

Cubs miss chances in loss to Cards

CHICAGO -- Milton Bradley's first appearance at Wrigley Field lasted long enough for him to get ejected.

Chris Duncan drove in three runs, and Khalil Greene and Brian Barden each hit solo homers to lift the St. Louis Cardinals to a 7-4 victory Thursday over the Cubs and Bradley, who was tossed after a pinch-hit at-bat in the sixth.

"It's a bad game," Alfonso Soriano said. "We lost that game, and we were supposed to win it. There's no excuse. We had a lot of opportunities to win the game, and we lost."

Kosuke Fukudome gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead with a three-run homer in the fifth, but Greene's homer in the sixth tied it. The Cubs then loaded the bases in the sixth, taking advantage of two Cardinals errors. Bradley worked the count full against Adam Wainwright (2-0) but was called out on strikes by home-plate umpire Larry Vanover. Bradley argued and was quickly ejected.

"Obviously, he thought it was a ball," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella, more concerned about other issues than Bradley's barking. "I couldn't tell from my vantage point."

Bradley was not available postgame, but teammate Derrek Lee stood up for the outfielder.

"I'm not concerned about Milton," Lee said. "He's going to be a huge part of this lineup. It's his first at-bat at home, a big situation. He's been out three, four, five days. It's a tough situation to pinch-hit in."

Bradley, who has been sidelined with a strained groin since Sunday, does bring an edge to the team.

"I like it," Lee said. "He said what he had to say and walked off. That's him. He's intense. It's a big situation, he wants to do well, and he got upset. It's OK. He didn't do anything malicious. He was coming out of the game anyway, and now he just has to pay 500 bucks [fine]."

Wainwright said the pitch was "too close to take."

"It's right there," Wainwright said. "I'm sure the TV strike zone thing would have had it crossing the plate."

"I was inside watching," Lee said, "and I don't want to say anything bad about Larry, but Wainwright wasn't throwing a lot of strikes in that situation. I thought he got the benefit of the doubt when the hitter probably should've been getting the benefit of the doubt."

And that particular pitch?

"I thought Wainwright got a couple breaks in that at-bat, honestly," Lee said.

That wasn't the only missed opportunity as the Cubs stranded seven.

"I'm not crazy about how our offense is functioning, I can tell you that," Piniella said.

The bullpen also is not in sync. Aaron Heilman, who came on in relief of starter Sean Marshall, served up Greene's homer on his third pitch. Rookie David Patton (0-1) took the loss, giving up Yadier Molina's tie-breaking RBI single in the seventh. Albert Pujols was intentionally walked, but the other two Cardinals who were walked both scored.

"All we can do is preach," Piniella said. "That's all we can do is say what's good for the individual."

Heilman says there's only one thing they can do.

"Pitch better," Heilman said. "There's no other way to get around it. There's no real magic formula that you can say, 'Do this, this and this' and everything's going to click. Sometimes it takes days, sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes it takes longer to figure out. We have to keep going out there, be aggressive and keep pitching, and things will fall into place."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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