Cubs leave 'em stranded in another 1-run loss at Cleveland

There was nothing confusing about the Cubs' second straight 1-run loss in Cleveland. No deep dive required.

During the two-game series, the Cubs were a combined 2-for-27 with runners in scoring position. They actually put runners on base in 17 of the 19 innings but scored 3 runs on 20 hits.

Wednesday's 2-1 loss in 10 innings was the Cubs' seventh straight 1-run decision. They won the first four and dropped the last three.

"The game's tough," said outfielder Joc Pederson, who stayed hot by collecting 3 hits. "They threw some good arms at us. Frustrating, I didn't come through in the 10th with two runners on. Doesn't feel good, that's for sure."

Cubs manager David Ross stuck with a positive spin after the game. Putting runners on base and taking quality at-bats will pay off in the long run, he reasoned. And it is true the Cubs were without their two best hitters this season, Kris Bryant and Nico Hoerner.

Bryant didn't start because of an illness, but he did pinch hit in the seventh inning and got hit by a pitch on the hand. Hoerner is expected to come off the injured list Friday when the Cubs open a series in Detroit.

"The grit and determination and the fight and how these guys approached really good pitching when we're short-handed, I've been impressed with," Ross said. "It's been a positive sign. We didn't come away with two wins and that's what ultimately matters, but I would definitely say I like where we're at."

Are the Cubs really moving in the right direction? Or is this another chapter in a familiar story, signs of progress followed a by a return to bad habits?

One thing that's been clear, the emphasis on quality at-bats and a more diversified hitting approach has been going on since last season began, if not longer. Maybe this is a trait that will continue to evolve slowly.

One positive example from Wednesday was Javy Baez struck out in his first three at-bats, then when another pitcher tried to get him to swing wildly at an outside pitch, he reached out and poked it into right field for a single.

"This was a tough series, but one hit here or there and it swings it totally the opposite way," Ross said. "We're hitting the ball, we're getting knocks, getting guys on base. That's always a good thing."

The Cubs broke open a scoreless tie in the sixth when Ildemaro Vargas and Pederson hit back-to-back doubles with two outs. In the bottom half, though, Cesar Hernandez and Amed Rosario greeted Zach Davies with back-to-back doubles on the first two pitches of the inning.

Rosario later ended the game in the 10th with a liner to right field off Keegan Thompson, who nearly escaped the inning. Davies gave up 6 hits and 2 walks, but just 1 run in 5⅓ innings.

"Another step forward where mechanically everything was right," Davies said. "Leading off with 2 doubles can't really happen, especially after you score. But overall, I was happy with being able to throw the changeup a lot, being able to command the ball, mix a few curveballs in there. Soft contact is where I find success."

With 3 hits, Pederson has now gone 11-for-22 over the last five games, a nice turnaround from his slow start. Catcher Willson Contreras went 4-for-5 on Wednesday.

Ross didn't have a detailed diagnosis on Bryant's hand, but he doesn't think it will be an issue.

"I think it's just a contusion," Ross said. "We were pinch running for him either way. He's felt pretty (cruddy), so we were running for him no matter what."

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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