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."

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

There may not be a player in baseball more exciting to watch than Javier Báez.

Whether at the plate, in the field or on the bases, Báez is a human highlight real. He’s one of the most powerful hitters in baseball; he has a cannon for an arm, exemplary defensive range and is a tagging maestro. He’s a dynamic baserunner who uses his elite baseball instincts to go station-to-station while magically avoiding tags along the way.

Yeah, there’s a reason Báez is known as “El Mago.” It’s not a matter of if he’ll make an incredible play each game, but a matter of when. Things come easy for the 27-year-old full of flair who makes the most difficult plays seem routine.

Báez is a career .270/.310/.484 hitter who’s hit 110 home runs in parts of six big-league seasons. One of those long balls came in his big-league debut (Aug. 5, 2014), a go-ahead blast against the Rockies in the 12th inning. The legend of El Mago was born.

Báez is the Cubs starting shortstop, though that hasn’t always been the case. Starlin Castro was the starter in 2014; Addison Russell claimed the title from Castro in the second half of 2015, holding it down until late in the 2018 season. Russell hit the injured list that August as the Cubs simultaneously acquired Daniel Murphy in an attempt to jump-start the offense.

By the time Russell returned, Báez was a clear-cut NL MVP candidate. The latter still bounced around the infield from time-to-time, but with Murphy entrenched at second, shortstop became Báez’s primary position. He’s been the starter ever since.

Báez has played 2,646 2/3 career innings at shortstop compared to 1,856 at second base (and 629 1/3 at third). He’s exclusively a shortstop these days, but the El Mago second base days aren’t forgotten.

Báez was the co-recipient of the 2016 NLCS MVP award (along with Jon Lester) and has started back-to-back All-Star Games (2018 at second, 2019 at shortstop). He was the runner-up for the 2018 NL MVP award, posting career highs across the board: .290/.326/.554, 34 homers, 111 RBIs, 129 OPS+.

And yet, it feels like Báez is only getting started. Nevertheless, his career to date has more than earned him a spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team at second base. With that, we'll leave you with this:

Anthony Rizzo joins Cubs All-Decade Team behind efforts on and off field

Anthony Rizzo joins Cubs All-Decade Team behind efforts on and off field

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

You saw this one coming, right?

As the Cubs’ longest tenure player, Anthony Rizzo was a shoo-in for this group. He hasn’t relinquished his starting first baseman job since making his Cubs debut in June 2012. The guy’s longevity alone is impressive.

But besides that, Rizzo has been a model of consistency during his time on the North Side. Since 2012, he’s hit 217 home runs (averaging 27 per season) and hit 32 three times from 2014-17. The lone exception? 2015, when he hit 31. So close…

As a Cub, Rizzo is a .277/.376/.496 hitter with a 132 OPS+. He produces at a high clip each season, whether he’s hitting third, cleanup or leadoff, all while simultaneously playing stellar defense. The 30-year-old is a three-time Gold Glove Award winner (2016, 2018-19).

Rizzo is the guy who comes up huge in key moments but will be there to address the media after tough losses. He’s the de facto captain of the Cubs, the guy who suffered a nasty ankle sprain in September that could have ended his regular season. Instead, he returned four days later for a key series against the rival Cardinals, as the Cubs were fighting to keep their October dreams alive.

When he’s not leading his team on the field, Rizzo is giving back to the community off of it. He’s one of the most charitable athletes in the world and recently raised $1.3 million for children’s cancer research at his “8th annual Walk-off for Cancer” in his home state of Florida.

Rizzo was the first building block of the Cubs core which snapped their infamous 108-year championship drought, but he’ll be remembered for more than that. He’s a leader on and off the field, the clear choice for starting first baseman on our Cubs All-Decade Team.

Also considered: Derrek Lee, Bryan LaHair