DENVER -- If the Cubs are to avoid a 100-loss season, then they have to figure out a way to win on the road out west. If they want to not make any more baserunning gaffes, they need to be a little smarter. If they are to build a winner, it's up to general manager Jed Hoyer and Co., who are already busy working on next season.
Charlie Blackmon hit a solo home run and Chris Nelson added a two-run single to lift the Rockies to a 6-0 victory Wednesday over the Cubs, who dropped to 0-15 on the road against National League West teams.
The Cubs stranded runners at third base in the second, third and fifth innings, and had runners at second and third in the seventh with one out when Dave Sappelt hit a fly ball to left. Joe Mather, who was at second, tried to advance as Josh Vitters headed home but Mather was thrown out to end the inning.
It's the second time the Cubs have committed this baserunning mistake, having done so in Houston earlier this month.
"I went 30 years without seeing it, and unfortunately, I've seen it twice in the last two weeks and in pretty relevant situations, which is the odd thing about it," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "I might have come across it when maybe my team was up two or three and it was an irrelevant play."
Mather's decision to advance left Sveum scratching his head.
"It's bonehead plays," Sveum said. "[The players] know they are. It's just not thinking ahead, and Joe has good instincts. ... For whatever reason, they forget what the score is and the situation. They can't slow the game down to go over all the scenarios before the next play happens."
"I thought I could make it," he said. "I shouldn't have gone. It was bad baserunning. We're down 6-0, I took an RBI away from [Sappelt]. It was just bad baseball."
Jason Berken (0-2) took the loss, and the Cubs now need to win four of their final seven games to avoid a 100-loss season for the first time since 1966. Four of those games are at NL West ballparks.
Hoyer isn't counting the losses anymore.
"People in every walk of life focus on round numbers," Hoyer said Wednesday at Coors Field. "One hundred losses is a round number. I'm not going to feel any better about a 96-loss season or a 98-loss season or a 100-loss season. In any way, shape or form, we have to get better. I don't want to lose 100 games either. That's something people talk about and it's a round number we clearly want to avoid.
"If we avoid it, it doesn't mean I'll feel better about our season. ... We have to get better. That's the focus."
Hoyer, Cubs manager Dale Sveum and Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, will meet the day after the season ends to go over the roster. The early take on the prospects called up this season have been mixed.
"Every guy who's come up hasn't shown we need to reserve a spot for him next season but that's to be expected," Hoyer said. "We need to get better next year and having depth at [Triple-A] Iowa is important. A lot of those guys may feel they're ready but if they start the year at Iowa, that's probably a positive for our roster."
Hoyer knows first-hand that some players take a little longer. He promoted Anthony Rizzo to the big leagues last season with the Padres and watched the first baseman struggle to hit .141.
"That first time in the big leagues, I think it's really difficult to evaluate," Hoyer said. "I've had a number of players tell me the butterflies don't go away that first time up, they're nervous all the time, they have a hard time calming themselves down. Maybe the second time, the third time they come up, it's like, 'OK, I belong here.' It's hard to evaluate a guy when he's nervous.
"It's hard to blame them sometimes. This is their dream, they're up for the first time, the game is faster. Sometimes those things can snowball. It did with Rizzo last year."
The Cubs do have a significant amount of money coming off the books with Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster gone, and it could be a a busy offseason. They need more pitching, possibly a third baseman, and help on the bench.
"We will have financial flexibility," Hoyer said. "We've been diligent to make sure we do have flexibility and we're efficient going forward. We'll obviously be active in the free agent market."
And most likely reviewing baserunning in Spring Training as well.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.