Cubs Reach Nadir as Incredible Loss Caps June, Runs Losing Streak to 6
If the construction of their state-of-the-art clubhouse beneath what is now Gallagher Way taught the Cubs anything, it’s that even the unimaginable can be achieved with a little more digging. But instead of a set of batting cages in the space that used to serve as their locker room, this Cubs team managed to turn a 7-0 1st inning lead into a 15-7 blowout loss that closed June on a note so low it embarrassed even Tim Storms.
Too bad you didn’t need to be an elephant to either hear or remember the drubbing.
Things were so ugly in Milwaukee that Eric Sogard was called upon to pitch twice in three games after the actual pitchers imploded. Monday was one of those weird affairs that you almost had to laugh at because giving up a 10-spot in the 8th inning was such a cruel joke. Wednesday, however, was a humorless display of ignominy from which little more than pain and frustration could be culled.
The wildest part is that it should have been the Brewers and rookie starter Aaron Ashby feeling that way. Making his MLB debut, the lefty surrendered seven runs on four hits and three walks while recording only two outs in the opening frame. The Cubs sent 12 men to the plate before the Brewers had a chance to bat, yet there was a sense of foreboding because of the other starter and the amount of time left in the game.
Sure enough, Jake Arrieta ended up allowing six runs on four hits and four walks while failing to complete two innings of work. Though technically not his worst performance in terms of game score — the 10 from Wednesday is better than a pair of 5s on April 30 and June 4 — this one has to be judged more harshly because Arrieta was spotted a huge lead and proceeded to throw the door open for the Brewers to charge back.
“This one’s on my shoulders,” Arrieta said. “There’s no way around it.”
After initially looking like a grizzled version of the ace who’d left Chicago for a shot to be the man elsewhere, the wheels have fallen off for Arrieta. He started the season with a 2.57 ERA through five starts, limiting opponents by keeping the ball in the yard and getting enough strikeouts to offset the walks that had increased a bit from his salad days. He was also getting swinging strikes at an 8.5% clip and had hit double digits in two of his starts, something he hadn’t done since 2016.
Then came that disastrous start in Cincinnati, since which everything has dropped off. The strikeouts are down while both walks and homers are way up, and Arrieta simply isn’t missing enough bats to maintain any semblance of consistency. Though he’s had a few decent games in his last 11 starts, the 7.46 ERA and 7.30 FIP tell the story of a starter who can no longer be counted on to hold down a rotation spot.
“We’re going to reset this off-day and go from there,” Ross said following the loss. “I don’t know who we would replace him with.”
This isn’t the first time the manager has discussed his former teammate’s tenuous grasp on a job and things have now moved past the point where it’s just the Twitterati acknowledging Arrieta’s departure from competence. Unlike the garage sale everyone is expecting Jed Hoyer to open on Gallagher Way when the Cubs return to Chicago on Monday, the former Cy Young winner may be placed on the curb with a “FREE” sign taped to his jersey.
Whatever happens with Arrieta, the rest of the team needs to figure out a way to move forward with a season that just hit the halfway point. The Cubs are, after all, still over .500 and in second place in the division with a decidedly easier schedule ahead of them than what they just encountered in June.
“I know the trade deadline is on the [mind] of the outside world,” Ross told the media in Milwaukee. “But I really think we’re focused on the day-to-day process. And we’ll continue to get guys back and play good baseball. I think we’ve got, still, things to work on, as I say a lot. I think we’re a good team.”
Nico Hoerner and Justin Steele are nearing returns as their Triple-A rehab assignments draw to a close. Both are in Indianapolis with the I-Cubs now and could easily trek to Cincinnati this weekend to provide reinforcements. Even Trevor Williams could lend a hand, particularly in light of Arrieta’s struggles. David Bote isn’t far behind, Matt Duffy could return later in the month, and the All-Star break should help to soothe other nagging maladies.
Just as long as the time off also allows the Cubs to wash off the stank of this six-game skid. Maybe they can get Ron Coomer to spray them with FunkAway and hope the sun comes out enough on Thursday to let them air dry before taking on the Reds in Cincy. With all due understanding of the current injury situation, continuing this losing streak in the Queen City is unacceptable.
Not that it’s a matter of simply choosing not to lose any longer, since the baseball gods have already shown us how that isn’t enough. That said, there may soon be a choice to not lose any longer with this particular roster. That’s going to be Hoyer’s task over the next four weeks as the deadline approaches at the end of the month. I know a lot of you out there are clinging steadfastly to faith in this group, but the Cubs are sure as hell doing everything they can to pry your fingers loose.
Even though all is not lost just yet, this team needs to turn things around really damn fast in order to keep fending off the sale portended in a big way this past winter.