Cubs giving up home runs, but why aren't they hitting?
Heading into the weekend series, everyone knew the White Sox's game was long ball.
The Cubs didn't figure to hit as many home runs as their South Side counterparts, but it was reasonable to expect some offense.
On Saturday, White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez started the day with an ERA of 54.00. Sure, he'd tossed just two-thirds of an inning, but gave up 4 earned runs.
The Sox followed with Gio Gonzalez, who started the day with a 6.00 ERA. In the seven innings Lopez and Gonzalez were on the mound, the Cubs managed just 2 hits and 2 runs, before eventually losing 7-4 at Wrigley Field.
The slumbering bats continued a trend for the Cubs' since their losing streak began last week against Milwaukee. Willson Contreras was 2-for-23 over the last eight days, before Saturday. Javy Baez was 3-for-30 with 15 strikeouts, to give two bad examples.
"I think we're just trying too much," Baez said after the game. "We care, we care a lot. As a team, we're trying to do too much. We've just got to let the game get back to us and get in that rhythm again."
Anthony Rizzo was 6-for-26 over the previous eight days -- better than most of his teammates -- but went 0-for-4 on Saturday.
"When the ship is sinking, you feel like you're all about to drown," Rizzo said. "But that's the beauty of this game is you have to come back tomorrow and keep paddling and keep playing."
During the weeklong slump, the only Cubs player to muster a batting average above .300 was Victor Caratini, who doubled home 2 runs in the second inning on Saturday, and also doubled in the series opener. Jason Heyward has been decent, hitting .294 over the previous eight days. Those are the only highlights.
There was a brief rally in the eighth inning Saturday. With two outs, three straight singles by Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Contreras scored a run and brought the Cubs within 5-3. But 2 more home runs by the Sox in the top of the ninth put the game out of reach.
"I'm trying my best to get there," Baez said. "I know there's a short season and there's a little pressure because we've got to get better in a shorter time. At the end of the day, the game's still the same and we've got to make adjustments. I'm just trying to get my approach back."
The White Sox provided a drastic contrast, pounding 11 home runs in the first two games of the series.
"You see the difference between the two sides right now," Cubs manager David Ross said. "You see an offense that's really clicking on all cylinders with a ton of confidence and our guys are just trying to get going. I think the at bats are there, the willingness to have a plan and execute a plan. We're just not there right now."
The plan for the Cubs this season was to have more competitive at bats. That meant taking walks, looking at more pitches, moving along runners -- all the usual stuff that makes good hitters. And it seemed to be working like a charm.
Before the game, Ross was asked if maybe the Cubs are watching too many good pitches slide past them.
"I've never found it real successful from a manager's standpoint, or even a hitting coach, to tell guys how to have their at bats," he said.
Like Rizzo said, there are games every day. So the Cubs' offense could turn things around Sunday -- in theory, anyway.
"When it leaves the bat, it's out of your control," Rizzo said. "It's absolutely frustrating, but our offense will come out of it. We're very talented. I know a lot of people are a little upset right now with their performance. But this is baseball and we'll grind like we always do."
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