Cubs drop ninth straight as injuries play havoc with rotation
Marcus Stroman, Drew Smyly and Wade Miley were supposed to make up 60 percent of the Cubs' starting rotation for the majority of this season.
Instead, all three are on the injured list and will remain there for the foreseeable future.
The loss of these veterans -- who figured to keep the Cubs in most games -- has forced manager David Ross to make some serious adjustments.
At times, they've worked.
But more often than not, opponents are feasting and scoring in droves.
"Definitely the injury bug has gotten us pretty good," said Ross, whose team was crushed 19-5 by San Diego at Wrigley Field on Wednesday and has now lost nine straight. "I have obviously never been a part of this many injuries and this much juggling of a rotation.
"It's definitely been trying, but also in that same breath you get opportunities to see other guys and ... see what the future looks like at times."
One of those times came Wednesday as Caleb Kilian made his second major league start. Kilian, acquired from the Giants as part of the Kris Bryant trade last season, looked good against the Cardinals on June 4.
But it was a different story against the Padres as the 25-year-old allowed 5 runs on 5 hits with 5 walks in 4 innings. He also hit a batter and did not strike anyone out.
This skid is hardly the fault of the starters, though. The bullpen has been downright abysmal in the last five contests, giving up 36 runs and 43 hits in just 19⅓ innings.
The last four affairs were particularly bad as:
• Daniel Norris, with the Cubs trailing the Padres (40-24) just 5-4 in the fifth inning Wednesday, failed to record an out while giving up 4 straight hits and 4 runs. Rowan Wick then gave up a 2-run homer to Manny Machado and the Cubs suddenly trailed 11-4.
• Chris Martin (3 runs) and Scott Effross (2) failed to hold a 5-1 lead against the Padres on Tuesday.
• Wick (3 runs) blew a fantastic effort by Justin Steele on Monday.
• Norris (5 runs), Alec Mills (2) and Sean Newcomb (5) were battered by the Yankees on Sunday.
The Cubs (23-39) have been outscored 84-26 over the last nine games and 61-15 in the last five.
"I mean it hasn't been pretty," said Wick, whose ERA was 2.14 on May 21 but now sits at 4.78. "That's a good team and they get paid to hit."
Said Ross: "I don't have any answers. If I did I'd call a different number down there (in the pen). ... The bullpen (had done) a really nice job until the last few days. They'll get it on track; it's a veteran group."
Kilian struggled with his command, throwing just 45 of 86 pitches for strikes.
After allowing 2 runs in the first inning, he sailed through the second and third. Kilian got the first two batters in the fourth, but he hit Ha-Seong Kim and the floodgates opened after that as the Padres smacked 3 straight hits to take a 5-4 lead.
"I had a hard time controlling the ball," Kilian said. "I think I was trying too hard -- trying to aim it (and) throw it to a certain spot instead of being aggressive and letting it rip. Once I started getting the tempo up and having an attack mindset I was able to command a little better, but I just didn't have my sharp stuff."
Christopher Morel (2-for-5, HR, 3 RBI) and Ian Happ (3-for-4) had 5 of the Cubs' 11 hits. Morel now has 4 home runs on the season.