Wells picks bad time for hiccup

Wells picks bad time for hiccup

CHICAGO -- Randy Wells said he wasn't prepared, and the rookie couldn't have picked a worse time.

Wells served up home runs to Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn as the Washington Nationals beat the Cubs, 5-4, on Thursday to take the series and hand Chicago its 14th loss in the past 20 games.

Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez each homered for the Cubs, who missed a chance to pick up a game on St. Louis, which lost, 4-3, to Houston. The Cardinals maintained a nine-game lead in the National League Central.

"Let's just win some baseball games," Lou Piniella said. "Forget the Cardinals and every other team. Just win some baseball games."

The Cubs had hoped to do just that during this 10-game homestand. Instead, their chances of three-peating as division champs keep slipping away.

"It's been a difficult month," Lee said. "We're not very good right now. We just seem to be finding ways to lose rather than finding ways to win. There are only 30-some-odd games left, and we're in a big hole. You can't afford to lose games like this."

Wells (9-7) was vying to become the first Cubs rookie to reach double-digit wins since Kerry Wood won 13 in 1998. The right-hander gave up five runs on five hits and four walks over 6 1/3 innings. It's only the second time in his past six starts that Wells has given up more than three earned runs.

"The thing I'm most disappointed about," Wells said, "is when you're getting ready for the game and you talk about setting the tone, coming out sharp, and getting your team in there as quick as possible, to walk the leadoff batter like I did sets a bad tone.

"It's a lack of concentration, and that's what I'm most upset about," he said. "The home run [to Zimmerman], it looked like it was going to be a ball, and he just went down and got it. You put your team in a hole early, it's tough to come back."

Nyjer Morgan put Wells in a bad mood when he walked to lead off, then stole second and third before scoring on Cristian Guzman's double. Zimmerman followed with his 27th home run to make it 3-0. Washington added a run in the second and Dunn made it 5-0 with a leadoff homer in the third, the 11th off Wells this season.

Wells is primarily a ground-ball pitcher but said he had to abandon his sinker because he was missing outside with it, instead relying on his slider and changeup.

"I'm thoroughly disappointed in myself," Wells said. "You have to be ready to go when they say, 'Play ball,' and I wasn't today. That's a big game for us, a chance to win a series."

Lee walked with two outs in the third to set up Ramirez's 11th home run. Lee connected on his 25th with one out in the fifth, the first time he's reached that figure since the 2005 season.

Ramirez added a two-out RBI single in the seventh to close to 5-4, dropping the ball in front of a diving Willie Harris. Lee moved up to third on Ramirez's hit and tried to score on a ball that got away from Josh Bard. Bard flipped the ball to pitcher Sean Burnett in time, according to home-plate umpire Bill Welke. However, the replay showed Burnett tagged Lee with his glove while the ball was in his left hand.

"I think it was a bang-bang play," Lee said. "Sometimes when the ball beats you like that, they call you out."

The Cubs are quickly falling out of the race, but they've been making headlines lately with Milton Bradley's comments regarding racist remarks. Before the game, Piniella mentioned that the team doesn't have good chemistry, but didn't blame that for the struggles on the field.

"I don't really believe in chemistry," Ramirez said. "If you win, you have good chemistry. If you don't, you don't have good chemistry. That's the way I look at it. Last year, we won and we were the best team in [the NL], the best clubhouse in baseball. This year, we haven't played the way we liked to, and we don't have good chemistry. That's the bottom line."

Last year's 97-win season seems like a long time ago. Wells still believes the Cubs have a chance.

"I'm sure people are disappointed, but you can't hang your head and pack it in," Wells said. "You have to keep battling. You can't get down on yourself, you can't get negative, you can't start pointing a finger. That's not how you win baseball games. The more positive we can stay, and try to scratch and claw our way out of this, that's the only way we can get going."

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