Cubs' offense remains stuck in neutral in 2-1 loss to Pirates
Next week at this time, the Cubs will be in the playoffs.
But they're not going to be around for very long if their hitters don't start finding gaps, moving runners over and getting them home on a much more consistent basis.
The Cubs' offense remained stuck in neutral Wednesday during a 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh in which they managed a measly 5 hits.
What makes the result even more egregious is the fact that manager David Ross' squad was facing a pitcher in Trevor Williams who had allowed 11 home runs and racked up an unsightly 9.59 ERA over his last 5 starts.
Against the Cubs, though, Williams looked like a Cy Young candidate. Only Anthony Rizzo (solo homer in the first) and Cameron Maybin (2 doubles) solved Williams, who threw 101 pitches in 5⅔ innings.
Kyle Hendricks, making his final start of the regular season for the Cubs, gave up back-to-back home runs to start the game then yielded just 5 more hits. Hendricks (6-5) threw 7⅔ innings and struck out three.
The Cubs (32-24) have lost four of five.
"We have to embrace the situation that we're still going to be in the playoffs," Maybin said. "So we can't feel down or feel bad. The biggest thing is to have professional at-bats -- not trying to do it by yourself."
Several balls did pop off the bats, including two lineouts by David Bote, one by Rizzo and a deep fly ball from Javier Baez in the sixth that could have been a 3-run homer.
Those at-bats allowed Ross to paint a glass half-full picture afterward.
"We hit the ball extremely hard tonight and didn't have a whole lot to show for it," Ross said.
Still, isn't the first-year manager concerned about the lack of offense?
After all, the Cubs have just 10 runs on 30 hits over the last six games. And 5 of those runs came in a 5-0 victory over the Pirates on Monday.
Then there's the fact that Ian Happ is 7-for-51 over his last 13 games, Kyle Schwarber is 4-for-47 over his last 16, Baez is hitting .198 on the season and Rizzo is at .221.
"I don't think that our offense and our wins have gone hand in hand," Ross said. "The ultimate goal for us is to win baseball games.
"Obviously we want to swing the bats better than we have. But sometimes you just have embrace it may be a down year offensively -- it is a down year offensively for a lot of guys -- I mean that's just the facts.
"They continue to find ways to win in a lot of different ways. That's also a powerful thing."
David Bote, who is playing third base for the injured Kris Bryant, is also dealing with an injury. Bote wouldn't go into details while speaking with reporters before Wednesday's game, but did say the "training staff has been incredible."
"Just grinding it out," said Bote, whose four-game hitting streak was snapped in the loss to Pittsburgh. "Everyone's working through stuff. This is a crazy year. Things pop up that you don't anticipate and so you've just got to find a way to battle through it."
Manager David Ross said Bryant went through a series of tests with the trainers and tried to test out his mobility. Bryant left Monday's game with right oblique tightness.
"I'm optimistic," Ross said when asked if Bryant may be able to return this season. "Maybe that's just my personality, so don't take that too far. But he felt better today."