SEATTLE -- Cubs reliever James Russell began the season with 17 straight scoreless outings, and has not given up a run in 31 of his 38 appearances. But the lefty also is 0-for-5 in save opportunities.
"We've had a little trouble with everyone closing out games or the eighth inning, or whatever it might be," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said Saturday. "It's been tough all year long to get those outs, whether it's been the eighth or ninth inning for holds. It's been a big fistfight."
Because Russell is the only lefty, Sveum has to pick his spots as to when to use him. Bottom line, though, the job is the same.
"We've got to make pitches and get people out in those situations," Sveum said. "That's the way it is. It's not how much you use them. You've got to be able to get those crucial pitches. We're getting ahead of people and not making the pitch."
On Friday, Russell was charged with a blown save when he served up two runs to the Mariners, who eventually won, 5-4, in 10 innings.
At least Russell isn't walking batters.
"We're talking about a guy who's getting hit, he's not walking guys or throwing scuds," Sveum said. "It's more of not being able to put guys away. He's getting ahead of them in situations. The leadoff hitter was the biggest of all because [Russell] gets him 0-1 and gets the ball up and out over the plate, and the guy hits a double, and then all hell broke loose after that."
That was in the eighth inning Friday when the Cubs had a 4-2 lead. Nick Franklin doubled, and would eventually score.
"We keep getting ahead in these games," Sveum said. "We can't seem to hold them. The offense has been picking up and doing their job. We're just snakebit in closing games out."
X-rays negative on Sweeney's ribs after wall collision
SEATTLE -- X-rays of Ryan Sweeney's ribs were negative, and the Cubs outfielder was diagnosed with a contusion on his left side after crashing into the outfield wall in the third inning Saturday.
Sweeney was hurt when he hit the center-field wall catching Kendrys Morales' fly ball for the second out in the Mariners' third inning.
After Saturday's game, Cubs manager Dale Sveum said they would have a better idea as to the severity of Sweeney's injury on Sunday.
Julio Borbon took over in center in the fourth for Sweeney, who has gotten the majority of playing time since David DeJesus sprained his right shoulder colliding with the center-field wall at Citi Field June 14. DeJesus is on the 15-day disabled list.
Parker posts first save; Gregg mentioned in trade rumors
SEATTLE -- Kevin Gregg was released on April 3 by the Dodgers, and signed with the Cubs 12 days later. He's become a valuable part of the bullpen, completing 12 of 13 save opportunities, with his first blown save on Saturday.
Gregg's success also has resulted in his name being mentioned in rumors leading up to the Trade Deadline.
"It'd be tough to replace," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Gregg. "He's done a great job. I guess maybe you could look at [Blake] Parker because he's done it in Triple-A if those things come to light. You've got to use somebody. It'll be a wait and see situation."
Gregg is actually the third closer the Cubs have used this season. They began with Carlos Marmol, who lost the job after the first week. Kyuji Fujikawa took over until he was sidelined with elbow problems that resulted in Tommy John surgery.
Parker posted a 2.04 ERA and saved seven of 10 opportunities at Triple-A Iowa before joining the Cubs. He's been getting more work late in games, and on Saturday picked up his first Major League save in the Cubs' 5-3, 11-inning win over the Mariners.
"I'm not making an effort of it, he's just kind of earned it," Sveum said of Parker. "The way our bullpen sets up, he's done a good job. He wasn't at that many pitches [Friday] night. He's done it in Triple-A and his velocity is back. He's developed a split-finger fastball that's helped him at this level. He's deserved to be one of those guys later in innings when we're winning ballgames."
Parker has leaned on Gregg for advice, learning how to deal with being ready every day.
"He did an outstanding job [Friday], and today, he came in after the long outing, and to throw strikes and have quality pitches, it was a very good performance out of him," Gregg said of Parker's 1-2-3 11th.
"I talk to him all the time," Parker said of Gregg. "He's a great mentor. I think we have real similar pitching styles. He's a great leader. He's a great older influence to have, especially for a young guy like me to know how to go about your business."
• The Cubs had a scout watching Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez on Friday in Tijuana, Mexico.
About 45 scouts watched the 26-year-old right-hander, who was pitching for the Tijuana Toros. Gonzalez fled Cuba earlier this year, went to El Salvador and then worked out for a month in Mexico before getting to Tijuana.
He made a splash on the international scene at the 2010 University Baseball Championships in Tokyo and also shined at the Baseball World Cup in '09 and '11.
Cuban players who are at least 23 and have played at least three seasons in a Cuban professional league (like Gonzalez and the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig) are not subject to the new international signing guidelines established by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
• Chris Rusin gave up one run on five hits over seven innings in Triple-A Iowa's 5-1 win over Omaha Friday night. Logan Watkins was 4-for-5 with one RBI, and Dave Sappelt was 3-for-5 with two RBIs.
• On Aug. 14, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation will host its first Cook-Off for Cancer, which will feature upscale versions of ballpark food prepared by notable Chicago chefs and served by Cubs players. Guests will vote for their favorite chefs and dishes by tipping their Cubs server. All tips and event proceeds will benefit pediatric cancer research, care and support. The event will take place from 6-10 p.m. CT at Cafe Brauer in Chicago. Go to www.rizzo44.com or www.Cubs.com/community for more information.
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.