Cubs win streak ends, another starter goes down
The Cubs might have forgotten what it's like to face any sort of significant deficit.
Their 5-1 loss to Cincinnati on Sunday at Wrigley Field ended a six-game winning streak, but it was also their first loss by more than 1 run in a month. The last time it happened was an 8-6 road loss to the Reds on April 30.
Since then, the Cubs have gone 18-8, with every loss by 1 run -- until Sunday, anyway. Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta gave up 3 runs in the first inning (2 unearned) and the Cubs managed just 1 hit through 5 innings against Cincinnati starter Tyler Mahle.
But others things did seem familiar for the Cubs. They lost another starter, this time to illness. Trevor Williams, Monday's scheduled starting pitcher, had an appendectomy on Sunday morning and will be out indefinitely.
The Cubs did not reveal Williams' illness until well after the game, so manager David Ross never discussed it. When it comes to a replacement starter to face San Diego on Monday, the logical candidates are Keegan Thompson, who has one start against the Dodgers this season; or Kohl Stewart, who is already on the 40-man roster and is up next in Iowa's rotation.
Stewart was the No. 4 overall draft pick in 2013 by Minnesota. In four starts for Iowa this season, he's posted a 3.68 ERA and 0.955 WHIP.
"We've consistently shown the ability to pick up the slack with guys being called up and filling in in big situations," Arrieta said. "I think we're going to do just fine. We've shown the ability to do that this past month or so and hopefully we can keep that going."
Obviously, this is where the schedule gets tougher for the Cubs. Their next 10 games are against San Diego and San Francisco, the teams with the best records in the National League.
"We can beat anybody. It's just a matter of coming out sharp," Arrieta said. "I think the biggest indicator of success is the next day starter. If you get good starting pitching, you give your team a chance to win."
There was some reasonably good news from the injury standpoint. David Bote, who dislocated his left shoulder during Saturday's game, got an MRI exam Sunday and it turned out well.
"I think it was a little less damaging than we thought," Ross said. "I think we got the best news we could possibly get. I don't have a timeline for you. But there were no fractures or nothing in there that was crazy from what the doctors told me.
"Just stretched out some ligaments and tendons and put it back in place. If there is good news, it looked like it was on the better side of the news. I don't know how else to put that."
Bote still figures to be sidelined for several weeks. He was placed on the injured list Sunday, while the Cubs called up shortstop Sergio Alcantara from Iowa and designated pitcher Tyson Miller for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.
The Cubs might have some players back soon, but it's not clear when. Anthony Rizzo missed his fifth straight game with a sore back, while both Jake Marisnick and Jason Heyward are eligible to come off the injured list with hamstring strains.
"Both those guys are progressing nicely," Ross said of Marisnick and Heyward. "They're both hitting and running today. We're hoping to get those guys back soon. Things are going well.
"I have not actually checked in with Riz. Still better yesterday for sure. Hit off the tee, swung the bat a little bit. Felt fine. Still some limiting range of motion ... but getting better every day."
The Cubs managed just 4 hits on the day. One positive is some of the underutilized relief pitchers got some work, including Brad Wieck, Rex Brothers and Dillon Maples.
After the bullpen's long scoreless streak ended at 38⅓ innings on Saturday, Cubs relievers are already back up to 8 innings with a new scoreless streak.
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