Cubs' hitting strategy fails in shutout loss to Brewers

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs' Willson Contreras, center is restrained by Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Travis Shaw, left, and catcher Omar Narvaez, right, after being hit by a pitch as benches cleared during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in Chicago.

    Chicago Cubs' Willson Contreras, center is restrained by Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Travis Shaw, left, and catcher Omar Narvaez, right, after being hit by a pitch as benches cleared during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 4/6/2021 10:15 PM

Last season, there seemed to be a hitting theme around the Cubs of taking more professional at-bats. The idea was to see more pitches, make the pitcher work and take walks when given, rather than swing for the bleachers all the time.

This year's theme seems to be situational hitting. Moving runners along, getting runs in from third with less than two outs -- just manufacturing more runs in general, something at which they haven't been very good.

 

The Cubs didn't do anything well at the plate Tuesday night, collecting just 1 hit in a 4-0 loss to Milwaukee at Wrigley Field. The lone hit was a Kris Bryant double in the fourth inning, with an extra base tacked on due to left fielder error.

After hitting well in Arizona, the Cubs bats have gone quiet now that the games count. After this loss, their team batting average dropped to .132, easily worst in the majors.

On the positive side, the Cubs do have a 3-2 record and rank 20th in MLB in runs scored with 17.

Things got a little heated in the ninth inning when Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was hit by a pitch for the second day in a row and held up two fingers as he angrily approached Brewers pitcher Brad Boxberger. Contreras was dinged in the helmet Monday, while this one hit his left arm just below the shoulder.

The benches emptied, but everything calmed down quickly, especially when Anthony Rizzo followed by hitting into a double play. Freddy Peralta and Brent Suter pitched the first 8 innings for Milwaukee.

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Adbert Alzolay gave up a pair of home runs in his first start of the season. Travis Shaw hit a 3-run shot in the first inning to put the Brewers in control early, then Omar Narvaez homered for the second straight day to close out the scoring. Alzolay lasted 5 innings, giving up the 4 runs on 4 hits.

Over the weekend against Pittsburgh, the situational-hitting theme worked fairly well. The Cubs had 3 sacrifices flies in the opener, then moved some runners along in their 2 victories.

"I think the whole (Pittsburgh) series was a display of how we can produce runs, when not everything's firing on all cylinders," Ian Happ said. "I think its huge. The confidence it gives you as a hitter when you can move a guy over and then the next guy gets him in. (On Opening Day), cold day, 35 degrees, I got a guy over when I couldn't really see the ball and I think Willy right behind me got him in.

"It's just the little things like that. I think that just gives you confidence that you can go up and have that team at-bat, get the guy over when you're not feeling great or when you're not seeing it great, when you're down 2 strikes, and then trust the guy behind you. I think for us as a team, as a lineup, that trust is going to go a long way."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Manager David Ross, who helped establish the theme, suggested manufacturing runs isn't as easy as it may seem.

"That's one of those things that's been a narrative around here, and it's one of those things that's extremely difficult to do, all over the league you don't see that too often," Ross said over the weekend. "So the fact that the guys are getting runners in with less than two outs from third is important for sure. These guys are doing a good job not trying to do too much."

Maybe on Tuesday, the Cubs tried a little too hard not to do too much, because they basically did nothing at the plate.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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