LaTroy Hawkins entered Monday night's game against the New York Mets in the eighth inning instead of the ninth, returning to his former job as setup man.
But no matter what role Hawkins finds himself in, trouble seems to follow. After the Cubs rallied from a four-run deficit in a game twice delayed by rain, New York first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz homered off his former Minnesota teammate with one out in the eighth to lead the Mets to a 7-4 victory.
Hawkins (1-4) has been charged with the loss in his last three outings, a stretch covering five games.
The Cubs have lost eight of their last nine, their worst slide since manager Dusty Baker arrived in 2003, dropping to 13-18.
Baker was practically speechless afterward, saying three times, "I don't know what to say."
Hawkins' replacement, Ryan Dempster, was no better in his debut as closer. Dempster entered with a one-run deficit in the ninth and gave up four hits and two runs, putting the game out of reach.
"The back end of the ballgame is out of whack," Baker said.
With no one on the roster available to replace Dempster in the rotation, the Cubs called on 26-year-old Jon Leicester, who was making his first major-league start and lasted only 31/3 innings May 3 in his only start for Triple-A Iowa.
Leicester put the Cubs in a 4-0 hole, serving up a three-run home run to Mike Piazza in the first and a solo shot to Kazuo Matsui in the second.
"We need some help," Baker said, adding that general manager Jim Hendry is searching for some.
"Nobody is making any moves. Jim's trying around the clock. Boy, like I said, I don't know what to say right now."
The Cubs looked lifeless against former Notre Dame right-hander Aaron Heilman until the sixth, when Neifi Perez doubled and Derrek Lee walked.
Reliever Dae-Sung Koo entered with one out and poured gasoline on the fire, serving up an RBI single to Jeromy Burnitz and a game-tying three-run home run to Michael Barrett.
The Mets threatened in the seventh with an infield hit by Jose Reyes and a double to the left-field corner by Mike Cameron that would've scored Reyes had he not stumbled on the wet infield dirt between second and third. Baker called on left-hander Mike Remlinger to turn around switch-hitter Carlos Beltran, and Remlinger struck out the Cub killer on three pitches.
Cliff Floyd followed with a prodigious shot to right, but the wind kept it in the park, and Burnitz made a leaping grab in the vines to prevent a pair of runs from scoring.
It looked like a game-saving catch, until Hawkins made it a moot point one inning later.
After Leicester's emergency start, Cubs starters had a 4.52 earned-run average, a significant jump from last year's collective 3.72 ERA.
The Cubs let Matt Clement leave as a free agent because of the abundance of arms in the farm system. But the Cubs' system has not really produced the kind of talent Baker envisioned when he took the job after the 2002 season.
The four main starters at Triple-A IowaSergio Mitre, John Koronka, Bobby Brownlie and Renyel Pintohave combined for a 5-10 record and 6.79 ERA. Newly signed starter Darren Oliver surrendered nine runs in 21/3 innings Sunday in his first start at Iowa, and it may be one of his last.
"One of the reasons I wanted to come here, one of the most tempting factors was the good pitching that they had coming up," Baker said. "Most of it hadn't developed yet, but it's here.
"It's very frustrating.
But we just have to come up with the best solution possible."
Baker is under the gun with so many of his players struggling. He said before the game he'd stick with left fielder Todd Hollandsworth, who went 0-for-4 to continue his slump. Hollandsworth has two hits in his last 22 at-bats.
Mets 7, Cubs 4