Maddon not concerned with Cubs' struggles against good teams

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he doesn't think beating top teams during the regular season really matters "as long as you get to the playoffs."

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he doesn't think beating top teams during the regular season really matters "as long as you get to the playoffs." Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/5/2017 7:57 PM

The defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs have struggled this season against the rest of the National League's elite.

With Saturday's 7-4 victory over NL East-leading Washington, the Cubs evened the season series 3-3. However, they have losing records against the other three probable National League playoff teams: Los Angeles (2-4), Colorado (2-5) and Arizona (1-2).

 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was asked before Saturday's game if beating the better teams during the regular season mattered.

"No," he said after a thoughtful pause, "as long as you get to the playoffs. I mean, you want to get to the playoffs. I want to believe that we will beat some of the better teams during the season to get there."

The Cubs have only one series remaining against those likely playoff teams, a three-game set in Arizona next weekend. Maddon pointed to a specific reason the Cubs own a 5-11 record against the three NL West contenders this season.

"I think primarily because we've had a hard time with the pitching with the West more than anything else," he said. "And that's what we have to get better at. We've got to be able to beat better pitching, you've got to pitch better than better pitching, you've got to beat better pitching to get to the playoffs and then win in the playoffs. It comes down to that simply."

Unscathed yet again:

Cubs relief pitcher Brian Duensing continued to impress Saturday.

The 34-year-old left-hander protected a 1-run, sixth-inning lead by striking out two Nationals and retiring the side in order, thereby extending his scoreless streak to 15⅓ innings since June 22.

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Duensing has issued 10 walks this season and struck out 53 in 46⅓ innings for a 1.08 WHIP. That's far lower than his 1.36 career WHIP. Saturday's outing lowered his ERA since April 24 to 1.32 in 41 innings.

Oh, and he's a pretty nice guy, too, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

"He's a really quiet-on-the-surface but ingratiating-under-the-surface fellow," Maddon said. "He has a great personality. I want to believe that the way we do things has permitted him to be himself and I think because of that you're seeing the best side of him pitching-wise."

Duensing's success against right-handers has been a pleasant surprise. Entering Saturday's game, left-handers were hitting .279 against him. Right-handers were hitting just .191

"He's there to get lefties out, but look at him against righties," Maddon said. "It's outstanding. I just think he's very skillful."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Why has he been so effective?

"To be honest I really don't know," Duensing said. "It's like a lucky stretch but we've been executing really well. I've kind of been on the same page with both (catchers) Willson (Contreras) and now Alex (Avila). Things are just going really well right now, to be honest. I can't really put a finger on it.

Duensing credited Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio and catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello for helping develop a daily plan of attack.

"I do feel very prepared with each hitter I'm facing," he said. "That's compliments of Boersy and Boz. I think that has a lot to do with it."

Follow Jerry on Twitter: @jerfitzpatrick

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