'We've got to get better': Cubs offense struggles again against Brewers
One of the favorite axioms of Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is that "September creates its own energy."
The Cubs have been struggling to find that energy on offense lately.
Such was the case again Wednesday night in the series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. The Brewers scored early and held on for a 5-1 victory, taking two of three in the series and moving back to within 1 game of the first-place Cubs in the National League Central.
Curtis Granderson had a triple, single and a home run for the Brewers. His ninth-inning homer gave Milwaukee a 3-1 lead.
Even in victory Tuesday, the Cubs managed just 3 hits. Wednesday, they struggled to put runs across against starting pitcher Chase Anderson and the Brewers' bullpen.
They kept themselves in the game with decent pitching and outfield catches by Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr., who atoned for a first-inning error with a pair of diving catches.
"The offense has taken a hit, there's no question, no pun intended," said Maddon, whose team fell to 84-61. "We've got to get better. There's just no other way to look at it. I think we have to find that within ourselves."
The Cubs are in a stretch of 30 straight scheduled game days with a makeup game set for Thursday afternoon at Washington followed by a Friday night game back at home. They're doing their best to put on a brave face, but it looks like fatigue has definitely set in.
"We're still in first place," said infielder Javier Baez. "I'm not worried about that because we know we can do it."
Maddon said his players are doing their best to conjure up September energy despite the schedule and the quick up and back to D.C.
"Our guys have been spectacular," he said. "Of course, nobody's really happy. That's disingenuous if I said that. But we're going to get on a plane and we're going to play.
"I spoke about it yesterday, about keeping a switch on. Because if you don't, you're going to get your butt beat tomorrow. But I'm certain the Nationals are not really happy about this either. It's one of those things that neither team is excited about, but it's a little more difficult for us."
The Brewers (84-63) picked up a run in the first off Kyle Hendricks. Granderson led off with a triple to left-center. The play originally was ruled a home run, but replay showed the ball bounced off the basket in front of the bleachers. After Christian Yelich popped out, Lorenzo Cain singled home Granderson. The ball got past Almora for an error, but no further runs scored.
Hendricks gave up 3 singles to load the bases in the third. Travis Shaw hit a sacrifice fly to give the Brewers a 2-0 lead.
Anderson was gone after 4 innings, and the Cubs got a run off Jacob Barnes in the fifth when Kris Bryant doubled home Tommy La Stella, who led off with a pinch single, going to second on a throwing error and moving to third on a groundout.
"We're at the same place we've always been, maybe a little tired, to be honest," said Hendricks, who fell to 11-11. "It's been a tough stretch, but we're fine. We know where we are. We know where we want to get to, and we always have confidence in the group we have in that clubhouse."