They keep changing names and faces, and keep coming up with the same results.
And after losing yet another one-run game, 4-3 in 11 innings, to the San Francisco Giants in Carlos Zambrano's return as a starter late Monday night, the Cubs made more roster moves.
First baseman Derrek Lee, who left the team Monday to drive to Sacramento to be with his ailing grandfather, will go on baseball's bereavement list Tuesday, putting him out of action at least through the four-game series in San Francisco that opened Monday.
Micah Hoffpauir, one of the hottest hitters at AAA Iowa, returns to the majors for the first time this season today to replace Lee on the roster.
The Cubs also said catcher Geovany Soto will go on the 15-day DL today because of continuing soreness in his right shoulder, which affects him when he hits but not when he throws. Acting manager Alan Trammell said the club can't afford to chance playing with just one catcher on a day-to-day basis and will recall Welington Castillo from Iowa.
Castillo would be the eighth player to make his major league debut with the Cubs this season - with Monday night's losing pitcher, Marcos Mateo, being the seventh.
For all the late-night roster shuffling, the story of the day, if not this week, was Zambrano's first start since getting suspended after going off on his teammates in the first inning of a June 25 start on the South Side.
He tied his career high with seven walks and threw 95 pitches - about 20 more than expected - just to get through five innings, but somehow managed to depart with a 3-2 lead.
Zambrano blamed the lack of command on having too much movement on all of his pitches.
``You throw like in the middle or the corner, and the pitch runs too much, and it's a ball,'' he said. ``It's hard to come in your first start when you have too much movement. ... But I was able to control the ball when I had men on base, so that was good.''
Said Trammell: ``It was pretty apparent he wasn't real crisp with his command. ... But he competed. And this is his first start in quite awhile, so we're not going to look too much into that.
``You certainly would have liked a little better and getting another inning [out of the effort]. Because as it played out, this isn't what we were looking for, to have Marcos Mateo have to make his major-league debut in that situation [pitching the 10th and 11th innings]. But when you're struggling, as it seems with so many clubs that struggle, it seems like that's the kind of stuff that happens.''
Trammell attributed some of Zambrano's command issues with being fired up and motivated in his return start.
``Again, he competed, and I give him credit for that,'' Trammell said. ``He's had an up and down year with a lot of things and a lot of emotions, and I'm sure that had something to do with it, wanting to go out there and do so well. I'm proud of him for that. He'll get the ball in five days and we'll go from there.''
Zambrano, who unlike recent relief appearances couldn't get his fastball out of the 90-91 range, said he felt just as strong and that emotions had nothing to do with Monday's results.
``It was normal,'' he said. ``Just too much movement on my fastball. But everything else was normal.''
It certainly looked normal for the Cubs - who added to their major-league leading totals in one-run games (40) and one-run losses (27).
Mateo, whose major league debut on the day he was recalled to help a heavily used bullpen, included a two-strikeout, scoreless 10th - which got a huge lift from a Tyler Colvin-to-Mike Fontenot-to-Koyie Hill play inning-ending play at the plate after Andres Torres doubled into the right field corner with a man on first.
But back-to-back singles by Edgar Renteria and Aubrey Huff leading off the 11th put Giants at first and third. Mateo was then instructed to intentionally walk hard-hitting rookie Buster Posey, and Pat Burrell hit the next pitch to deep center for the game-winning sacrifice fly.
``Those guys are in the pennant race, and it shows,'' Trammell said. ``They got it done and we didn't. I like the way we competed. You don't like to lose, but that's how you get out of this stuff, by playing baseball like that. We played a better, cleaner ballgame.
``We'll come back tomorrow, and obviously [two-time Cy Young winner] Tim Lincecum is pitching. And they're in a pennant race. It doesn't look good for us, does it? But when the game starts it's 0-0, and I believe we have a shot.''