SAN DIEGO—Add another item to the list of reasons the Cubs have lost twice as many games as they've won--Fred McGriff's defense.
The Padres emerged with a 2-1 victory Tuesday night after McGriff let Sean Burroughs' eighth-inning grounder skip over his glove behind first base. The hit was ruled a triple even though the ball bounced four times before eluding McGriff and rolling into the San Diego bullpen.
Phil Nevin scored from second to put the Padres ahead for good.
"The ball just hopped up on me," McGriff said.
So it took a bad bounce?
"I thought it took a bad hop," he replied.
Cubs manager Don Baylor said he lost sight of the ball after it bounced past the bag. What Baylor did see, though, was that Burroughs "didn't hit it real hard."
The 38-year-old McGriff has committed just two errors this season, but he has had trouble with pop-ups and rarely stretches to receive throws from his infielders on close plays.
"I know he takes ground balls every day," Baylor said. "I don't know how much more you can do" to improve on defense.
After going 3-6 on their recent homestand, the Cubs were hoping that a change of scenery would change their fortunes.
But trekking to the West Coast didn't help a Cubs team that is sinking faster than a raft carrying an elephant.
After falling behind 1-0 in the second inning Tuesday night, the Cubs drew even when Alex Gonzalez knocked in Corey Patterson with an opposite-field double.
Gonzalez batted second in the order for the first time this season as Baylor sought to shuffle his deck of cards.
"I thought about doing some other things, but I didn't want to do anything drastic," Baylor said. "I think that would show players that (Baylor was) in a panic. Give them another chance. We're on the road. Maybe we can relax a little bit.
"We need to find out our identity, No. 1. Guys haven't really clicked together."
You could say that. After going 15-9 last April, the Cubs finished 8-16 in the first month of this season.
The starting pitching has rarely been a cause for concern. That continued Tuesday as Matt Clement overcame a shaky start to throw six innings of three-hit, one-run ball.
Clement, who entered the game with an astounding 7.2-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, walked opposing pitcher Brian Lawrence twice and finished the game with six free passes. But he survived long enough to prove to his former teammates that he's not the same pitcher who walked a National League-high 125 batters in 2000.
"I think this is the first game [this season] I walked a bunch of batters," Clement said. "If I do that once every fifth start, that's a lot better than doing it every other start or two out of every three."
Joe Borowski was charged with the loss after relieving Ron Mahay in the eighth. Borowski allowed a leadoff single to Phil Nevin before Burroughs' ball past McGriff allowed him to score.
"The baseball gods were with us," Burroughs said. "That ball might have hit a little chunk of dirt there, and that allowed him to get in. Whatever it takes to win the game, that's what we're going to do."
Trevor Hoffman pitched the ninth inning and got his eighth save in as many chances this season, giving him 320 with the Padres to tie Dennis Eckersley's record for saves with one team.