Cubs

Jon Lester's message to frustrated Cubs: Figure it out

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Jon Lester's message to frustrated Cubs: Figure it out

Jon Lester's message to the frustrated Cubs was simple: "You gotta figure it out."

The two-time World Series champion and three-time All-Star knows what it takes to make it in the big leagues and has been a steady voice in a young clubhouse filled with guys still trying to adapt to "The Show."

The Cubs (46-40) had to field questions about the grind after dropping their third straight game, this time a 5-1 loss to Chris Sale and the White Sox (41-44) in front of 41,596 fans at Wrigley Field on Saturday afternoon.

"You gotta figure it out," Lester said. "The grind in the minor leagues is just the same in the big leagues. The only difference is — you get to take planes to different cities as opposed to buses.

"The grind's there. ... We all go through it. It doesn't matter how old or young we are."

[MORE: Could Cubs and White Sox get together on a Samardzija trade?]

The All-Star break may be coming at a good time for a Cubs team that just went 18 innings in between runs stretching from the sixth inning Wednesday until Jonathan Herrera delivered a pinch-hit double down the line in the seventh inning Saturday.

The Cubs have provided just one run of support total for Lester over his last four starts and for the second straight outing, Kris Bryant made a costly error that opened the door for a big inning from the other team against Lester.

But the veteran southpaw refused to play the blame game.

"I think there's an overall team frustration," Lester said. "I don't think you can point fingers at anybody. We all accept blame at different times. I don't like to single out anybody or single out a side of the baseball.

"Guys are up there grinding, they're prepared and that's all you can ask. The effort's there, the preparation's there, that's all you can ask.

"It's just a funny game — you square a ball up, a guy catches it. You hit a bleeder and it goes through a hole. It goes the same way pitching. We gotta continue to do the little things and the ball will fall our way eventually."

The Cubs have scored two runs or less in 13 of their last 18 games, though they have found a way to win four of those 13 games thanks to some record-setting starting pitching.

The Cubs — minus Bryant and Anthony Rizzo — will get four full days off during next week's All-Star break, giving those young hitters a chance to hit the reset button and get some rest before the "grind" restarts Friday in Atlanta.

"You have to relax the mind a little bit," Joe Maddon said. "The break is definitely coming at the appropriate time for us."

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The Cubs offense has floundered of late, but they've also gone up against some tough pitching, facing the likes of Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Chris Sale...even after finding a way to beat Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

"We've seen a lot of good pitching," Maddon said. "We've hit some balls well that have found leather as opposed to grass. We've seen good pitching. That's it. We have young hitters that are seeing good pitching.

"We are a swing-and-miss team. That's part of our DNA right now. They've gotten the better of us, but I am not discouraged in the least."

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs offense takes a step in right direction, when will rotation follow?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Cubs offense takes a step in right direction, when will rotation follow?

For the first time in almost two weeks, the Cubs offense started to look more like the team we know they can be in Wednesday afternoon's victory over the Brewers. But when will the starting rotation follow? Kyle Hendricks pitched better than his stat line once again, but it's getting late in the season to continue to use that rationale for any Cubs starter.

Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs-Brewers series and Kelly sits down with David Bote for a 1-on-1 chat about his whirlwind week. Leila Rahimi also catches up with MLB Network's Dan Plesac to get his thoughts on Javy Báez's place in the NL MVP race, how the Central division is shaping up and X-factors for the Cubs and Brewers down the stretch.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is Milwaukee the biggest NL Central threat to the Cubs?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Is Milwaukee the biggest NL Central threat to the Cubs?

Phil Rogers, Jim Litke and Harry Teinowitz join Kap on the panel. Joe Maddon tweaks the lineup and the Cubs offense explodes to beat the Brewers. Is Milwaukee still the Cubs’ biggest threat in the Central? And is Javy Baez still the Cubs’ MVP?

Plus Roquan Smith puts on the pads to practice but will he have them on in Week 1 at Lambeau?  

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: