Wisdom hoping next step with Cubs includes more contact

PITTSBURGH - Patrick Wisdom can be full of surprises, such as on his wedding day when he and his bride had a giant doughnut instead of a wedding cake.

"We did breakfast for dinner, so we figured what better way to celebrate that than with doughnuts for dessert?" Wisdom said. "We had like streak and eggs, waffles, fruit, potatoes. We kept it a surprise, we didn't tell any of our guests what was for dinner."

Wisdom sat out Tuesday in Pittsburgh, missing his second straight game with a sore right wrist. The Cubs lost to the Pirates 8-6 at PNC Park, despite taking a 6-3 lead into the sixth inning.

Wisdom, Frank Schwindel and a few others represent a unique changing of the guard for the Cubs. No one was or is expecting them to replace Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo, but they've done a commendable job.

Since the all-star break, the Cubs have improved in most every offensive category with the new lineup. One issue, though, is they lead the majors in strikeouts in the second half, by a pretty wide margin. Manager David Ross was asked if he thought that was cause for concern.

"I think being better than we were is a good thing and the strikeouts are a bad thing," Ross said with a smile. "But I think we've got a guy in (Nick) Madrigal that's not here that doesn't strike out. Nico Hoerner who hasn't been here doesn't strike out.

"Piecing power and slug with contact and on-base, that's the puzzle, right? You can't have all slug and punch out and no contact. You can't have all contact and no slug and no on-base. And you can't have all on-base. I think that's a secret formula everybody's looking for around baseball: What is that dynamic and how are we piecing it together?"

Wisdom is at the forefront of that balance. He's set the Cubs rookie record with 28 home runs and seems to have earned a spot on next season's roster. But he's also led the majors in strikeouts since the all-star break and is hitting .150 in September.

Not surprisingly, making more contact is advice Wisdom hears quite often.

"It's kind of been a common comment that I get," Wisdom said before Tuesday's game. "Obviously, we care, we're trying to fix it, we're working on it. But the production is there. I'm coming through, I'm playing good defense, I'm running the bases.

"Now if we could limit the strikeouts - because it's going to happen, it's part of the game - and figure out ways to put the ball in play a little bit more, then I think I'll really be set."

Images of Wisdom playing with his two young daughters at Wrigley Field were a frequent reminder of how life-changing this season has been for longtime minor-leaguers like Wisdom, Schwindel and even Crystal Lake native Nick Martini, who went 4-for-4 with 2 RBI on Tuesday.

"I'd say it just changed how I view myself, what you think of yourself, knowing that I can play at this level on a consistent basis," Wisdom said. "It's comforting, but it's also self-realization, like 'You can do this. Keep going.'"

And until these guys sign a long-term deal, one bad stretch could bring their run with the Cubs to an end.

"That's why you take it pitch-to-pitch, day-to-day," Wisdom said. "When I first got called up, that's what I was doing and I've tried to maintain that mentality. Because in this game, you really don't know what's going to happen tomorrow or even a week from now."

Before the game, the Cubs placed pitcher Keegan Thompson on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation and called up pitcher Jason Adam.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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Pittsburgh Pirates' Hoy Park, center, kneels on third base after driving in two runs with a triple off Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Adam Morgan during the sixth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. Associated Press
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