Willson Contreras swung his bat over his head like a sledgehammer and slammed the head into ground.
The snap of splitting wood pierced the silence at Wrigley Field.
Contreras had just struck out to end the inning, and in one motion he embodied the frustration that’s been building up and down the Cubs batting order.
“When the ship is sinking, you feel like you’re all about to drown,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said after the Cubs’ 7-4 loss to the White Sox on Saturday. “But that’s the beauty of this game is you have to come back tomorrow and keep paddling and keep playing.”
The first two games of the Crosstown series, billed to be one of the most competitive Cups recent memory, haven’t lived up to the hype.
“You see the difference in the two sides right now,” Ross said. “You see an offense that’s really clicking on all cylinders with a ton of confidence, and our guys are still just trying to get going.”
On the North Side, a team that’s slumping together. On the South Side, a team that’s rising together.
“They’re playing really good right now,” Cubs starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks said of the White Sox, “putting together good at-bats, they had a good plan against me. And really, I felt like I just made one bad pitch, to (Luis) Robert his first at-bat.”
As has been the case all weekend, Robert sent that one bad pitch out of the park. Even a strong outing by Hendricks couldn’t stop a red-hot White Sox team from peppering the stands with home run balls. They only hit two homers off Hendricks – Jose Abreu got the barrel of the bat on a sinker low and outside for the second – but five on the night.
Meanwhile, the Cubs only had six hits.
“I just think you’ve got a lot of guys that are searching a little bit right now,” Rizzo said, “and not getting the results they’d like.”
Entering play Saturday, the Cubs were collectively batting .194 in the past week. Only the Reds (.174) had a worse week at the plate.
If the Cubs were going to break out of that slump this weekend, Saturday was the time to do it. White Sox pitcher Reynaldo López hadn’t started in about a month, after an IL stint with shoulder soreness. He was on a pitch count, and Gio González (1-1, 5.11 ERA) took over for him in the fourth inning.
The Cubs were able to take advantage of a hit batter and a walk in the second inning – even though their hits are down, their walks are not. Designated hitter Victor Caratini doubled to drive in two runs and tie up the game.
Then through the next five innings, the Cubs recorded just one more hit.
“We care a lot, and as a team we’re trying to do too much,” Cubs shortstop Javier Báez said. “And individually, we’re doing it too. So, that’s why we have so much pressure on us. We’ve just got to let the game get back to us and get in the rhythm again.”
The Cubs were able to string together three singles in the eighth inning between Báez, Kyle Schwarber and Contreras, to score two more runs.
But it wasn’t the showing of power the Cubs flashed through the first 15 games of the season, when they led Major League Baseball in OPS (.902) from the seventh inning on.
“It’s absolutely frustrating,” Rizzo said, “but our offense will come out of it.”