Let’s address the elephant in the room. The Cubs have gone into a tailspin since I started writing this column. I can see the way you’re looking at me, I see the resentment in your eyes. I don’t think I’ve played a role, but for whatever part I may have played in the Cubs’ recent struggles I truly apologize.
As it is, the Cubs have fallen to 2-8 in their last ten games. A stretch every bit as bad as the one they endured to start the season has dropped them out of first place by a game and a half behind the Brewers. And by virtue of the results of this series, the Cardinals find themselves right back in the thick of the race in the National League Central.
The general idea behind this section of the series recap is that it’s a good landing spot for fun highlights and anecdotes about the series that was. Getting swept by your arch rivals, shockingly, does not produce many such moments.
The 8th inning of Saturday’s inexplicably resumed game was emblematic of difficulties the Cubs have had in their current difficult stretch. With runners on first and second the Cubs got their first hit with runners in scoring position in quite some time and it was… a bunt?
It worked! But it’s certainly not the most inspiring way to break that drought, and the real kicker is that the Cubs managed only one run in the subsequent bases-loaded situation. Kyle Schwarber struck out looking, something he’s done far too often in these situations, and Kris Bryant drove in the only run with a force out.
Sunday’s game wasn’t much better as the Cubs plated only a single run. An 8th inning play by Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong to take away what would’ve been the game tying hit off the bat of Anthony Rizzo was a fitting coup de grâce to a frustrating week of Cubs baseball.
LET'S GO! pic.twitter.com/1cTwQRDHAP
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) June 2, 2019
- Yu Darvish had a great start in Friday’s opener. No qualifiers, no “but,” he was just good. His strong results added to what has been an improved body of work of late – in his last five starts, Darvish has put up a 4.13 ERA in 28.1 innings pitched while maintaining a 2.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That still isn’t quite good enough, but it’s a definitive step in the right direction that he can hopefully build on going forward.
- Anthony Rizzo wasn’t other-worldly this weekend, but he did hit a home run and got on base quite a bit. By virtue of the fact that no one else did much of anything, he retains his so far permanent spot in this section of the column. Have I mentioned that All Star balloting is open and that Anthony hasn’t made the game since 2016?
- Cole Hamels rebounded nicely on Sunday from what had been a tough stretch, pitching seven innings and giving up only a single unearned run. That unearned run would prove to be enough.
- Kyle Schwarber continues to really struggle with runners in scoring position. As mentioned above, he struck out in a critical scoring chance in the 8th inning of Saturday’s game and his struggles with RISP this year have been a continuation of such struggles last year. The Cubs left fielder is now hitting just .105 with runners in scoring position in 2019.
- After a nice start to his Cubs tenure, reliever Kyle Ryan has fallen off in a big way. Ryan gave up two runs on Saturday and has an ERA over five in his last 19.2 innings pitched. His mental “freeze” against the Marlins last month does seem to have been a falling off point.
- The human element. Umpires aren’t out to get the Cubs but their inaccurate and inconsistent decisions are affecting games. We’re all tired of this, right?
That's a strike. pic.twitter.com/nADQeVWwCK
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) June 1, 2019
The Cubs continue to find themselves mired in a stretch that isn’t significantly different than the one they had to start the season. Not only has pitching been a bit on the chaotic-evil side, Cubs hitters haven’t generated the same “oomph” they did during the most successful parts of the year – Sunday’s finale was a good example of how things just aren’t clicking. Javier Báez‘s still lingering heel injury and its effect on his production and availability has undoubtedly been a contributing factor in that struggle.
A week that started with the Cubs in first place and the Cardinals gasping for air has ended with the Cubs in second and the Cardinals right back in the thick of things. It’s not what you want but it probably can’t get any worse in the week to come, right?