Randy Wells escaped one bases-loaded jam Thursday, but couldn't do it twice. He later blamed himself for a lack of focus, got a lecture from Lou Piniella and then left Wrigley Field dressed as a cowboy.
And Wells' outfit was one of the tamest costumes the Cubs' rookies had to wear as part of their hazing.
First, the game. Jody Gerut smacked his second career grand slam and Mike Rivera added a two-run double as the Brewers sent the Cubs to a 7-4 loss, splitting the four-game series in Chicago.
It was the third straight start in which the Cubs' starting pitcher has failed to go past five innings, and that left the bullpen gassed and Piniella in a less than talkative mood. He skipped the postgame media session, but did talk to a few reporters in his office later.
"I take these losses hard," Piniella said. "I don't enjoy losing, I really don't."
The Cubs have been outscored, 23-22, in the past three games, and they're running out of outfielders. Milton Bradley was pulled Thursday in the sixth because of a sore left knee.
"Every day, somebody else is hurt on something different," Piniella said. "It gets frustrating, it really does. It seems like every day there's something else that goes wrong here. Remember, this is a Major League season of 162 games, and you've got to have people who are capable of going 162 games."
Piniella had talked to the players last week in Pittsburgh about finishing strong. They need to be healthy, too.
"You just can't continue to get a pitcher hurt or a player hurt every day and function like you want to function," Piniella said. "Let's be realistic -- it gets frustrating. Let me turn an ankle or something."
Wells was hurting after the game. He walked the first two batters in the first, then gave up a single to Ryan Braun to load the bases. Next up, Prince Fielder -- No. 2 in the National League in RBIs. Wells struck him out, and Mike Cameron followed with a sacrifice fly, but that was all the damage in that frame.
"He did a great job getting out of that situation," Cubs catcher Koyie Hill said.
The Cubs went ahead 2-1 in their half against David Bush (5-7) but the Brewers loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth on a walk, a single by Bush and a walk, and this time, Gerut connected on his seventh homer of the year, launching a 2-2 pitch to right, to put Milwaukee ahead, 5-2.
"I'm going to say it -- it's just lack of focus lately," Wells said. "The home run was a home run, but look what happened before that -- a two-out base hit to the pitcher. I'm not the smartest guy in the world, but you can't win ballgames up here doing stuff like that."
Piniella talked to Wells in the dugout after he exited.
"I told him, 'What made you successful early in the year was being in the strike zone, staying ahead of the hitters, keeping your pitch counts down,'" Piniella said of his conversation. "'Lately, you're getting behind, you're walking people.' I used the word 'nibbling.' When you do that, sooner or later you come in and you're going to get hurt."
"He's right," Wells said. "I accept full responsibility, full blame. We're trying to put something together and finish on a positive note. The last two starts, I haven't pitched like the pitcher I was early in the year. It's all on me. I will fix it, I will come back better next time."
"[Wells] shouldn't take it all on himself," Hill said. "It's a team. I'm back there, too. It just didn't work out."
Pinch-hitter Micah Hoffpauir, batting in Wells' spot with two outs in the fourth, delivered a two-run double to make it 5-4. Hoffpauir was dressed in a pig costume when he left Wrigley Field for the team's one-hour flight to St. Louis.
Even Japanese interpreter Hiro Aoyama was included in the prank, dressed in a Wonder Woman costume, complete with brunette wig.
"The only thing worth reporting today," Hill said, "is these outfits we've got going here."