LOS ANGELES Its there in the back of Chris Volstads mind. How could it not be?
Volstad still hasnt won a game in his last 21 starts in the big leagues, and this is a bottom-line business. But that wasnt the takeaway from Saturday nights tough-luck 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Volstad almost matched Clayton Kershaw, the National Leagues reigning Cy Young Award winner, pitch for pitch. And if Matt Kemps shot to right-center field hadnt bounced off the top of Joe Mathers glove and over the wall for a two-run homer, this could have been a different ballgame at Dodger Stadium.
As it stands, Volstad (0-8, 7.22 ERA) last notched a victory on July 10, 2011 with the Florida Marlins. But manager Dale Sveum saw someone throwing the ball with conviction, challenging hitters inside and not shaking off the catcher too much.
Once the game starts, its just baseball, Volstad said. But off the field, maybe before games, stuff like that, you might think about it some. Its hard not to. Its pretty apparent its a long streak. But Ive taken a different approach, simplifying it.
After selling off pieces at the trade deadline, the Cubs (43-62) are sticking Volstad in the rotation for the rest of the season, which amounts to around 10 starts to prove he belongs.
The hope is that The Streak doesnt become A Thing.
Its not not in his head, Sveum said. Unfortunately, you start thinking, Man, I cant blow this because I got the lead right now and I want this win and so on and so forth. So instead of just pitching, youre worrying about another entity that shouldnt be in your head.
Volstad limited the Dodgers (58-50) to two runs across seven innings and walked only one batter. Hes trying not to worry about the big picture.
(I) try not to think too much, Volstad said. Thats what gets me in trouble. I tend to think a lot and my mind gets in my own way. Just try to simplify it basically down to each single pitch and focus on that and see what happens.