Cubs

Cubs offense sputters in another loss to Brewers

Cubs offense sputters in another loss to Brewers

If the Cubs are going to accomplish all their postseason goals, they're going to have to improve at manufacturing runs.

After two days off, the Cubs regulars struggled Sunday against Wily Peralta and the Brewers, leaving 11 men on base in a 3-1 loss in front of 41,286 fans at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, the third such performance of the season.

"We hit the ball well, I thought," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "We really did. This is one of those days of the culmination of the wind blowing in and their defense playing well. 

"I thought we had good at-bats. ... It's just one of those days that it didn't play in our favor. But overall, you only score one run, but actually there was a lot more action offensively from us. We just could not get it to fall in the right spots."

The Cubs had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs in the second, third and fifth innings and failed to cash in.

They also put runners on first and second with one out in the ninth before Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo struck out.

"The most important thing is that we're able to hit in situations better to move the baseball," Maddon said. "That's it. Play the same game we've been playing - pitching-wise, defense-wise. Overall at-bats: really good. Baserunning: outstanding.

"Against better pitching, we just have to be able to eliminate or cut down on the strikeouts where the ball needs to be moved. That's the best way I could describe it."

The Cubs didn't have any issues getting guys on base against Peralta, with nine hits - including two from pitcher Kyle Hendricks - and a walk, but the Brewers starter limited the damage.

The sole Cubs tally came when Tommy La Stella's two-out double scooted under Domingo Santana's glove in center field, scoring Javy Baez from first.

Hendricks, meanwhile, allowed four hits in the second inning, including a two-out RBI single to Peralta.

"A couple fastballs that just weren't there in that inning," Hendricks said. "I gave up a couple base hits. That was really it."

That was all the Cubs' Cy Young candidate surrendered on the day - two earned runs on six hits in six innings while striking out nine without a walk.

Chris Carter homered off Cubs reliever Felix Pena in the eighth inning to close out the scoring on the day.

The Cubs wound up winning just one game against the Brewers in a four-game series and that sole victory required a ninth-inning comeback and then a 10th-inning walkoff blast from Miguel Montero.

The Cubs have lost five of their last six games against the Brewers.

"They've been playing good baseball at least the last month-plus," Hendricks said of the Brewers. "It's good for you, though, 'cause every team that comes in here, they're gonna be coming for us. It's just always a test and we know that."

The Brewers are now 11-6 in September, playing the role of spoiler down the stretch for postseason-bound teams.

"People would be talking about the Brewers right now and a push to make the playoffs if it was the first half with the way they've played recently, so you gotta give them credit," Jason Heyward said. 

"Sometimes, there's less pressure on teams and they play better when they know they're not playing with anything to lose. And that's no offense to them. Just saying: Sometimes it's easier to play that way."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester had easily his worst outing of the year, allowing the Cardinals to score eight runs on seven hits, the veteran All-Star only managed three innings before Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen. 

The Cardinals would take game two of the series by the score of 18 to 5, and while none of the Cubs pitchers could silence the Cardinal bats, Lester didn't shy away from his poor outing. 

"You know, I don't want to chalk this up as bad days happen," said Lester. "I think mechanically this has kinda been coming." 

Lester knew he was struggling to hit his spots, and while his ERA was a sparkling 2.58 coming into this start, his peripheral stats had him pegged as a potential regression candidate in the second half of the season.

His 4.35 FIP and 3.30 walks per nine innings show a pitcher who is relying heavily on his defense to get outs, which isn't surprising for a 33-year-old veteran but the walks are a concern. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was aware Lester had been working on his mechanics, but even he was surprised that Lester's start went downhill so quickly. 

"I thought he had good stuff to start the game, hitting [92-93 mph] and I'm thinking this might be a good day," said Maddon. "But you could just see from the beginning he was off just a little bit." 

Over Lester's last four starts his ERA has been an uncharacteristic 4.57, issuing 10 walks over those four starts, and only making it past the 6th inning once. At this point of Lester's career, he knows the best way for him to get outs isn't through strikeouts but by inducing soft contact and avoiding walks. 

And while both his hard contact rate and walks have increased this season, Lester's experience and high baseball I.Q. has allowed him to navigate his way through sticky situations. 

"I've been getting outs," Lester said candidly. "I just feel like when I've had that strikeout or I have a guy set up for that pitch I haven't been able to execute it." 

And while this outing was one to forget, it's at least a positive sign that Lester is aware of his issues on the mound. The veteran knows how to get outs and he knows what he needs to do to be successful in the latter part of his career. He just needs to get back to executing those pitches. 

Just don't expect Lester to dive head first into the analytics on how to fix his issues, he'll stick to hard work and baseball common sense. 

"I'm not too concerned with the analytic B.S., I'm worried about my mechanical fix for my next start."