Cubs miscues continue, lose again to Pirates
When he spoke to reporters earlier this week, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer gave an answer that shows how he feels about manager David Ross.
"I think every good manager I've been around, it feels like when you walk in their office at noon every day, they're the exact same person," Hoyer said. "I think that is the real key. Players feed off that consistency.
"I think with David, the players love him, they trust him and they know he has their back. I think that's probably the most important thing he can show this time of year."
A pennant race is a haven for second-guessers, but whether the Cubs make the playoffs or not, it's hard to imagine Ross not being back next year.
Meanwhile, though, the Cubs delivered another big-game slip-up Thursday, losing 8-6 to Pittsburgh at Wrigley Field. After winning the opener 14-1, the Cubs ended up dropping the three-game series. They've now lost seven of the last eight and are 3-10 in the last 13 games.
The Diamondbacks, Reds and Marlins all had Thursday off, so the Cubs lost a half-game on all three. They're now tied with Miami for the third wild card spot, but would lose the tiebreaker. The Reds are a half-game back with nine left to play, while the Diamondbacks are 2 ahead of the Cubs.
"We didn't play our style of baseball," Ross said after the game. "When we hit, we didn't pitch. Some calls didn't go our way. We're not going to win when we don't play clean baseball."
The Cubs made some costly errors, left runners on base, then saw their late-game comeback thwarted by a leaky bullpen.
This game featured what could conceivably be Kyle Hendricks' last start for the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He completed 6 innings with just 1 earned run allowed, though he dealt with plenty of traffic and gave up 7 hits.
It's possible -- maybe even probable -- that the Cubs bring back Hendricks to provide a good example for the younger pitchers coming up. He was his calm, controlled self when this one was over.
"Obviously a little bit of frustration, but no panic at all," Hendricks said. "We still know what we're capable of. We're still where we want to be. It's all in our control. We've just got to play fundamental baseball. Just pressing a little bit, but it's natural this time of year."
The scoring began with help from an error by Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson, his second in five games. With a runner on first, Bryan Reynolds hit a grounder to Swanson, who may have been checking the double-play possibilities and had the ball bounce off his glove. The Pirates eventually scored 2 unearned runs.
"I've got to pick him up there," Hendricks said. "He's done so much for me every time I'm out there, so much for this team, makes every single play. I've got to be a better teammate there and just pick him up there, bottom line."
The Cubs left 10 runners on base in the first six innings before finally scoring in the seventh when a Swanson single drove in Ian Happ. Pittsburgh answered with 2 runs in the eighth off Brad Boxberger to make it 5-1.
But the Cubs got back in it in the bottom of the eighth. After a walk and single, Mike Tauchman delivered an RBI double to the gap. Two more runs scored on a wild pitch and ground out to bring the Cubs within a run.
The top of the ninth featured more miscues, though. After cutting down a runner at the plate, the Cubs botched a rundown as Miles Mastrobuoni threw the ball into the outfield. Two batters later, pinch-hitter Joshua Palacios hit a 3-run homer off Julian Merryweather to make it 8-4.
To start the ninth, a double by Cody Bellinger and home run from Swanson trimmed the deficit to 8-6. Pirates closer David Bednar retired the next three batters to end the game.
"We've just got to turn it around," Ross said. "It's on me, it's on the guys in that room to play a little bit better. I know this group, they'll come back (Friday) resilient as heck, put their best foot forward and be ready to play."