Cubs not panicking after being swept by Cardinals

If there was any widespread panic Wednesday at Wrigley Field, it was contained to the stands and not the Chicago Cubs clubhouse.

Even though the Cubs got themselves swept by the St. Louis Cardinals, thanks to Wednesday's 7-2 loss, the mood inside seemed calm. The only alarm that sounded was the one that went off in the press box early in the game.

The Cubs did step into uncharted territory for the 2016 season. This was the first time they have been swept in a series all year, and the three-game losing streak matches their high for the season.

"Honestly, man, I'm fine," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose team is 47-23 and still holds a 9½-game lead over second-place St. Louis in the National League Central. "The first two games, we played really well and lost. Those are actually tougher to deal with. Today, they just clubbed us. Give them credit. They're swinging the bats really well."

Of course, it's always concerning to Cubs fans when ace starting pitcher Jake Arrieta loses a decision. He worked 5 innings, giving up 4 hits and 2 runs, 1 earned. The real problem was that the patient approach exhibited by St. Louis batters ran Arrieta's pitch count up to 106.

"We've just got to get him back with his fastball command, and he'll take off again," Maddon said. "He just has to get back to fastball going where he wants to. Once he does, it will be the exactly the same as last year.

"The other thing is it looks like Jake is just working too hard to get his outs. Last year, pitch-efficient. He threw a lot of innings but did not throw a lot of pitches to pitch a lot of innings. This year he's thrown more pitches and fewer innings. It's just the exact opposite of what he had been doing last year. Old scouting adage: If he's shown it to you once before, he's going to show it to you again."

Arrieta's record fell to 11-2, and his ERA held at 1.74. He also did not seem to be overly concerned.

"We're in a good spot," he said. "We're going to take our lumps. Early in the season, we lost several in a row. The mindset stayed the same. I don't see this being any different. We've had to deal with some adversity, some guys going down (with injuries). It's about how we pick each other up and bridge the gap until those guys get healthy. Until we're at full strength, we'll have to rely on some other guys. We're capable of doing that."

The Cardinals put across 2 in the fifth before breaking it open in the sixth with 5 runs against Justin Grimm and Carl Edwards Jr. The Cubs' lone bright spot was a 2-run homer in the seventh by rookie catcher Willson Contreras, his second of the season.

On the other side of Wrigley Field, the Cardinals were happy to get back on track, especially against their rivals.

"I think we just got to get back to what we expect of ourselves," said starting and winning pitcher Michael Wacha (3-7). "Anytime you beat a good team, I think it's a reinforcement. But you don't dwell on it very long.

"We knew we were coming to a tough series here in Chicago. But guys showed up ready to play."

The Cardinals improved to 38-33, and they remain in the thick for a wild-card spot.

"That's a great series," said manager Mike Matheny. "Close games those first two, and putting anything away here is hard. It always is. Guys had to play complete games, and they did."

Complete games largely gone, but still valued

Storybook start for Contreras

Back with Cubs, Coghlan feels part of the family

Cubs clipped by Cardinals in Contreras' first start

Cubs place Fowler on 15-day DL

Chicago Cubs take the long view with starting pitching

Cubs' bullpen undergoes overhaul

Montero, Rizzo injuries not expected to be serious

Scouting report

Cubs vs. Miami Marlins at Marlins Park

TV: Comcast SportsNet Thursday and Friday; WGN Saturday; ABC 7 Sunday

Radio: WSCR 670-AM

Pitching matchups: The Cubs' Jon Lester (9-3) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (4-2) Thursday at 6:10 p.m.; Kyle Hendricks (5-6) vs. Tom Koehler (6-6) Friday at 6:10 p.m.; John Lackey (7-3) vs. Paul Clemens (0-0) Saturday at 3:10 p.m.; Jason Hammel (7-3) vs. Jose Fernandez (9-3) Sunday at 12:10 p.m.

At a glance: This series figures to be a tough test for the Cubs. The Marlins beat the Braves 3-0 Wednesday to improve to 38-34. Miami is in the thick of the wild-card race. Marcell Ozuna leads the Marlins attack with a line of .323/.375/.571 with 15 homers and 43 RBI. Former Cubs farmhand Justin Bour hit his 12th homer of the season Wednesday. Venerable Ichiro Suzuki has a line of .350/.422/.394 in 137 at-bats. The Marlins were 11th in runs scored Thursday, sixth in on-base percentage and 14th in homers. Their pitchers' ERA (4.00) ranked seventh in the NL. This begins an 11-game, three-city road trip for the Cubs.

Next: Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park, Monday-Wednesday

- Bruce Miles

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