Didn’t see this coming, the San Diego Padres cooling down the hottest team in baseball and sweeping Wednesday’s doubleheader at Wrigley Field. It took until May 11 for the Cubs to lose back-to-back games for the first time this season, and it happened within a span of 10 hours.
“Whatever, we got eight losses,” veteran catcher David Ross said.
The Cubs are creating this identity where they wear teams down and pounce on mistakes. That’s why a crowd of 37,828 rose to its feet in Game 2, sensing the moment with two outs in the eighth inning.
San Diego shortstop Alexei Ramirez had just dropped Kris Bryant’s high pop-up onto the infield dirt as Jason Heyward jogged by and sort of ducked his head. Lefty reliever Brad Hand then walked Anthony Rizzo to load the bases and responded by striking out Jorge Soler swinging at an 84-mph curveball.
After a 1-0 loss, manager Joe Maddon said he didn’t consider pinch-hitting for Soler, who went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and is now hitting .175 and still trying to carve out a role on this team.
“Of course not,” Maddon said twice. “You don’t do that. This is a guy that’s a big part of our future and he could just as easily put the ball over the wall, get a knock. But, no, there’s really no thought of that.”
Maddon wanted to cover for Soler, crediting San Diego lefty starter Drew Pomeranz (10 strikeouts across six scoreless innings) and making a reference to the home-plate umpire, Cowboy Joe West.
“He had to cover a lot of strike zone, so that makes it a little bit more difficult,” Maddon said. “He had a tough night, but George is going to be just fine. Listen, you can’t read into one game like that and denigrate a really good young prospect or hitter like that.”
Maddon doesn’t need to be second-guessed, losing pitcher John Lackey fumed after Christian Bethancourt pimped his home run and Ross sounded a little annoyed about the focus on Soler.
“Baseball’s really hard,” Ross said. “His role is kind of off and on and bench roles are tough getting sporadic at-bats. Your swing’s going to come and go, but I see good at-bats.
“We’re looking for good at-bats out of one another and it’s hard to get down on your teammates when you’re 26-8 or whatever the heck we are (25 wins). I’m not going to talk bad about anybody. If you all have positive questions, I’ll answer those.”
The Cubs will regroup with an off-day on Thursday before seeing if an emerging rivalry with the Pittsburgh Pirates will get heated again this weekend at Wrigley Field.
“Here we are in May and this is the first time we’ve lost two games in a row,” second baseman Ben Zobrist said. “It speaks volumes about how well we’ve played so far. We’re not going to let one day – one day that we struggle – deter us from continuing to do what we’ve been doing the last month-and-a-half.”