There was an air of "Groundhog's Day" around the Cubs before Sunday's game against the Colorado Rockies.

Nobody would blame Joe Maddon if he said he felt like Bill Murray from that hit film.

In a lot of ways, it's the same story, different day for the 2017 Cubs.

Maddon fielded question after question from the media about the leadoff spot — a new option was in there Sunday in veteran outfielder Jon Jay, who promptly singled in his first at-bat and scored — and how to get past the offensive woesm, particularly with the young hitters.

The Cubs manager was as patient as ever, despite his team entering Sunday's game with a streak of 26 straight innings without an extra-base hit and leaving 31 men on base over the last four games.

"We've pitched well enough to win more. We've played defense well enough to win more. We've been inconsistent with the offense," Maddon said. "That's the part we have to focus on. And when your guys are struggling like that, the point is you gotta stay with 'em.

"It takes a lot of conversation. It takes a lot to help bring them back confidence-wise. They're missing their confidence right now more than anything. But anger is not a solution. Seat of the pants decisions are not a solution, either.

"These are our guys and I believe in these guys. They are good. They're gonna show it again relatively soon. We're struggling right now back and forth, but this is a great group of major-league players."

 

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Maddon has a way of being brutally honest without being overly negative or sounding the least bit insulting.

He hasn't sugarcoated anything through the Cubs' offensive woes and knows they have to improve their consistency all around, pointing to a roller coaster last month that has included: A 7-2 homestand, an 0-6 road trip, a five-game winning streak and now a four-game losing streak entering Sunday.

The result is a 30-31 record for the defending World Series champions, but they're also still somehow in second place in the National League Central, just two games behind the Milwaukee Brewers.

And that's with veterans Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist posting numbers below their career norms, consistent struggles from Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras and Addison Russell and up-and-down contributions from streak young hitters like Ian Happ, Javy Baez and Albert Almora Jr.

The only constants on offense have been Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Miguel Montero and Jay, which explains why Maddon had all four veterans in Sunday's lineup in an effort to salvage at least one game from the visiting Rockies.

Maddon and his coaching staff are trying to make sure they're not overwhelming the young hitters with too much information, especially since "Uber drives have been telling them how to hit right now."

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From Maddon's perspective, it's all about confidence.

"Confidence is such a fragile component of the human existence, especially when it comes to sports," Maddon said. "Regardless of what you've done in the past, it's so easy to forget that because you're really trying to do well in the present.

"And sometimes when things just aren't going properly and they start happening too quickly, all the sudden, you lose whatever that little thing is that permits you to slow things down and maintain your confidence. We're all subject to that. Every one of us.

"Our job as coaches right now is to understand that and try to nurture that back into our players. It has to come from their performance, absolutely. But in the mean time, they need our support and they need our consistency. They don't need inconsistencies coming from us right now because that would be the worst possible message to send them.

"I've been through it before. It's actually an interesting situation to be involved in. It tests what you believe in, which I think is a good thing. You have to have a consistent plan while maintaining flexibility at the same time, which I think we do."