Cubs

Cubs' bats continue to stay silent against Rockies as losing streak hits four

Cubs' bats continue to stay silent against Rockies as losing streak hits four

The Colorado Rockies came to the North Side, and the Cubs' bats vanished.

For the third straight game against the visitors from the Mile High City, the Cubs did almost nothing offensively, getting just four hits off Rockies starter Jeff Hoffman in a 9-1 loss Saturday afternoon.

After scoring one run on five hits in the series-opener Thursday night and three runs on three hits in Friday's loss, the Cubs scored just once and mustered five hits in Saturday's defeat, their fourth straight dating back to the series-finale with the Marlins on Wednesday night.

The Cubs couldn't do much of anything against Hoffman, who entered with a thin 2.61 ERA in his first four appearances of the season. Saturday, Hoffman allowed just one hit in his first six innings of work before the Cubs finally strung a few knocks together to stop the shutout in the seventh.

The North Siders missed out on an early scoring chance, when Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo got to second and third with one out in the first inning. But Ben Zobrist struck out swinging and Jason Heyward grounded out to end the threat.

Hoffman kept the Cubs quiet from there, finishing with just one run and four hits allowed in 6.1 innings, striking out eight.

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The Cubs staged a minor uprising in the seventh, Heyward, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras stitched three consecutive one-out singles together to finally get the Cubs on the board and chase Hoffman. But two outs against two different Rockies relievers followed to end that rally.

The Rockies, meanwhile, had little trouble getting on the board, scoring a pair of first-inning runs off Cubs starting pitcher — and former Rockies hurler — Eddie Butler on RBI doubles off the bats off DJ LeMahieu and Mark Reynolds.

Reynolds launched a solo home run onto Waveland Avenue to make it 3-0 in the fourth, and Charlie Blackmon crushed a pitch onto Sheffield Avenue in the seventh to make it 4-0.

Butler exited after five innings, surrendering three runs on six hits. While Butler still has just one start that's lasted six innings, he's allowed three runs or fewer in all but one of his six starts.

The Rockies tacked on three more runs in the ninth, Nolan Arenado clearing the bases with a two-out double that jumped the scored up to 7-1. An eighth run scored on a wild pitch later in the inning, and the Rockies got their ninth run on an Ian Desmond base hit on the next pitch.

The Cubs will try to prevent a five-game skid when they send Jake Arrieta to the mound in the finale of this four-game set Sunday.

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

When Ben Zobrist rejoined the Cubs active roster on Sept. 1, it was fair to wonder how much he could provide offensively. After all, he spent the previous four months on the restricted list while tending to a family matter, last playing a big-league game on May 6.

Zobrist did no baseball activities from May to mid-July, only working out to stay in shape. Although he eventually ramped things up, he played in just 12 minor league rehab games in August before returning to the Cubs, a small number compared to the length of his absence.

Even Zobrist admitted upon his big-league return that his timing at the plate wasn’t where he wanted it to be. And yet, what he did in September was nothing short of impressive. In 21 games, he posted a .284/.377/.388 slash line, performing at a level many couldn’t have expected, considering the circumstances.

Zobrist's impact on the Cubs' lineup goes beyond what you see in the box score, however. Not only is he a switch hitter with some pop, but he has a keen eye for the strike zone and frequently puts together professional at-bats.

On a Cubs team that tends to expand the zone, Zobrist’s presence mattered. In his second game back, for example, he went 3-for-3 with two walks, helping the Cubs beat the Brewers 10-5. After the game, Brewers starter Chase Anderson pointed out how different the Cubs' lineup looks with Zobrist in it.

"They play the matchups really well and Zobrist makes that team so much better," Anderson said on Sept. 5. "Just bringing his presence to the top of the lineup, it changes their dynamic a little bit."

Where Zobrist stands entering 2020, though, is currently unclear.

Zobrist is set to hit free agency after the World Series and will turn 39 next May. Therefore, it’s possible that he’s played his last game in the big leagues, as he has little, if anything, left to prove at this stage in his career.

Ahead of the Cubs’ season finale on Sept. 29, Zobrist told reporters in St. Louis that he hasn’t thought about how much time he’ll take before deciding what’s next for him. His family situation will obviously play a big role in his decision, but if September showed anything, it's that he still has something left in the tank.

“I’m 38 but I got that feeling all over again,” Zobrist said following the Cubs’ season finale, a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals in which he pitched a scoreless inning. “Just really fun, you know? It’s a fun game. Sometimes you don’t come out on the winning end, but you still gotta have fun with it and enjoy it. I enjoyed it today."

The Cubs roster is expected to undergo changes this offseason, with center field, second base and the leadoff spot being just a few areas the team will look to address. The latter two spots became revolving doors during Zobrist’s absence, as the Cubs struggled to replace what he brought offensively.

Zobrist is past the point in his career of being an everyday player. However, he still could be a useful asset for the Cubs in a supporting role, bringing his veteran approach to the lineup when he plays while still offering an experienced voice in the clubhouse.

“I take a lot of joy in that role, just being a supporting guy and being a part of winning clubs and part of winning atmospheres and cultures,” Zobrist said on Sept. 29. “The Chicago Cubs have been that since I’ve been around. This year we didn’t make the playoffs — we still have a winning record — (but) the kind of relationships that are built here and the culture that’s been built here is definitely a winning one.”

After the Cubs announced that they wouldn’t retain Joe Maddon for 2020, Zobrist acknowledged that more changes were likely coming in the offseason. Only time will tell what that means for the veteran utilityman — should he continue playing.

Whether he retires or joins a different team for 2020, though, Zobrist will look back on his four seasons with the Cubs fondly.

“(They’re) just the most passionate fans I’ve ever met,” he said of Cubs fans. “They’re very loyal, very passionate and it’s been such a pleasure to be a part of that team that beat the curse back in ’16, so I feel that still, when I see Cubs fans, there’s a lot of them that hug me and thank me for being a part of that.

“I’ll always look back at [my] time here — I don’t know what’s going to happen in the offseason — but look back at these four years and [be] very grateful to be able to be part of a group like this and be able to do what we did while I was here.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

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USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon and Jeff Nelson give us their memories of Joe Maddon's time with the Cubs and discuss David Ross and Joe Espada's candidacy to be the next manager.

01:30 Kelly's memories of Joe from the perspective of a reporter

06:00 Going back to Hazleton with Joe

07:45 Joe's legacy as manager of the Cubs

16:00 How Joe impacted Javy Baez' career

18:00 David Ross and Joe Espada may be the leaders to replace Joe Maddon.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

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Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.