Ross hopes struggling Chicago Cubs hitters can avoid Groundhog Day experience

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs manager David Ross, center, checks his notes during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Chicago.

    Chicago Cubs manager David Ross, center, checks his notes during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 8/26/2020 10:32 PM

With the Cubs in a collective hitting slump, there has been plenty of talk from players lately about trying too hard. Feeling the pressure to get on track since the shortened season is halfway over and the team is in first place.

"It's real and trying hard is a real thing," manager David Ross said before Wednesday night's 7-6 loss at Detroit, when the Cubs fell short after scoring 3 runs in the ninth. "I think that's something that the more experience I got as a player, the more I was able to just go and do my job and care about my teammates, but just kind of focus on what I needed to do.

 

"I remember when I really struggled in my career -- the only way I can talk is through my experiences. I had a really good year one year (in Cincinnati) and the next year I just wasn't very good. The worse I did, the harder I tried. It just kind of snowballs like that. Especially when you're an everyday player."

Another potential issue is with pandemic rules, there are no nights out. No team dinners or group outings to get away and relax. Under MLB rules, players are not to leave their hotels on the road. The Cubs have tried to set up outdoor spaces at the hotels where players can hang out together.

"There's no team dinners to let your hair down or relax a little bit and talk about whatever you want to talk about and be outside of the game and the confines of a stadium or a hotel," Ross said. "It's unique and it's definitely a struggle to keep things fresh, not so Groundhog Day-ish."

Contreras goes soft:

In the case of Cubs pitchers trying to do too much, catcher Willson Contreras said he's got that covered.

"I'm just trying to be their pillow. They can rest on me," he said before Wednesday's game. "I'm trying to be the best I can for my pitchers. That's something I've been doing really good this year.

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"We care so much that a lot of times we try to do too much. That's something I try to communicate to my pitchers to go out there, do the best they can. If the result doesn't come out like we want, we have to keep looking forward. We're still in first place and our goal as a team is to reach the playoffs."

Underwood delivers:

One positive moment in a forgettable Cubs' loss in Detroit on Tuesday was reliever Duane Underwood Jr.'s performance.

Underwood came out of the bullpen in the second inning after starter Tyler Chatwood walked the bases loaded with one out. Underwood struck out Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum to end the inning with no damage.

The story behind the story is Underwood and Candelario are good friends from their days in the Cubs' minor leagues.

"Me and Candy, we got low-A, high-A and a little bit of Double A before I got hurt," Underwood said. "Candy's a great friend, a great competitor and just to watch his game mature has been fun. When you're on the other side of the lines, it really don't matter no more. I've got to do my job and that's to get him out."

Candelario appeared in 16 games for the Cubs in 2016 and '17 before being traded to Detroit for Alex Avila and Justin Wilson.

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