Cubs can't get going in 4-0 loss to Twins

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (40) beats out a throw to Minnesota Twins first baseman LaMonte Wade Jr. (30) during the ninth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Chicago.

    Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (40) beats out a throw to Minnesota Twins first baseman LaMonte Wade Jr. (30) during the ninth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Chicago. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 9/20/2020 9:40 PM

Drop an alien onto Planet Earth today -- one that has an appreciation for baseball, of course -- and tell him that through 51 games:

Cubs superstar Kris Bryant had 2 home runs, Anthony Rizzo was hitting .211, Javier Baez was hitting .208 and manager David Ross' team was hitting a franchise-worst .214 at Wrigley Field.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Oh, and Kyle Schwarber -- who smacked 38 home runs and drove in 92 runs in 2019 -- was mired in a dreadful 3-for-45 slump.

Then drop this bombshell on him: Despite all that, the Cubs held a 4-game lead over St. Louis in the Central Division heading into Sunday night's game against Minnesota.

Seems impossible. But it's all true.

"It never goes as expected, right?" GM Jed Hoyer said before the Cubs dropped a 4-0 decision to the Twins. "It is a testament to Rossie, to the coaching staff and it's a testament to our depth. A number of guys have filled in really well or stepped up in the absence of the production from the (star) guys."

Fifty-some games into a normal season, we'd be getting our barbecues ready and preparing for summer. Players like Bryant, Rizzo, Baez and Schwarber would have plenty of time to turn up the heat on opposing pitchers.

Alas, this is not a normal year as the postseason is just a week away.

"In a normal season I'd have zero concern just because you feel like you're going to play for four more months and guys will get hot," Hoyer said. "Great players don't struggle for six months. ... This year's different, right?

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"The clock could run out and some of these guys never get a chance to get hot."

Ross hoped to ignite a spark by tweaking his lineup against the Twins, but the Cubs (31-22) managed a measly 4 hits.

Rizzo, who batted second, actually tried bunting his way on in the first inning, but pitcher Jose Berrios exploded off the mound, fielded the grounder and easily recorded the out.

Rizzo did hit a one-out single in the third, moving Jason Kipnis to third in the process. But Bryant followed by striking out on a pitch far out of the zone, and Cameron Maybin (who came in for Schwarber) grounded out to short.

In the fourth -- with the Cubs trailing just 2-0 -- Baez had a chance to drive in Wilson Contreras (double), but Contreras was thrown out at the plate after Baez hit a sharp grounder to third.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We may have some moving parts the next couple days," Ross said. "Just trying to get some flow to the lineup. Doesn't seem to be flowing as well as it possibly can right now."

No doubt about that as the Cubs managed just 2 runs on 12 hits in three games vs. Minnesota.

Heading into Sunday, four Cubs did have on-base percentages above .350: Jason Heyward (.414), Ian Happ (.373), Jason Kipnis (.357) and Wilson Contreras (.355).

But Ross needs his stars to start shining so his team can make a serious run at the World Series.

"Obviously we all watch the same thing," Hoyer said. "It's certainly not the offense we're used to watching. ... All that's behind us.

"We just have to hope that we can get it clicking at some point the rest of the season and into the postseason."

Pitching update:

GM Jed Hoyer said pitcher Jose Quintana threw Saturday and "looked sharp." The Cubs expect Quintana to make his season debut during their upcoming four-game series against Pittsburgh.

Hoyer also said Tyler Chatwood (2-2, 5.30 ERA) threw from 105 feet Saturday. Chatwood, who is on the IL with hip soreness, hopes to be able to help the Cubs if they make a long playoff run.

Roster move:

The Cubs recalled outfielder/infielder José Martínez from the club's South Bend Alternate Site and optioned left-handed pitcher Josh Osich to South Bend. Martinez was acquired from Tampa Bay and optioned to South Bend on September 8 after going 0-for-14 with the Cubs. He's hitting .198 (16-for-81) overall.

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