MILWAUKEE – Ian Happ’s helmet bounced off the grass next to home plate, landing beside his discarded bat. The outfielder had just struck out to end the inning with the bases loaded.
By the end of the game, he wouldn’t be the only Cub emanating frustration.
With a 2-1 loss to Milwaukee at American Family Field on Tuesday, the Cubs (42-38) slid to five games back of the division-leading Brewers (47-33).
Just five adays ago, the two teams had been tied for first place in the NL Central.
“We're not playing great baseball right now,” said Cubs outfielder Joc Pederson, who went 2-for-4 Tuesday, “especially playing the team in first place, when you really want to cut down on that lead. We’re not taking care of business. So, it’s pretty frustrating.”
The Cubs’ loss Tuesday was emblematic of the dive their season’s taken over this five-game losing streak in several ways.
Fighting through a tough June schedule, the Cubs were so close to ending the month on a high note, opening a four-game series against the Dodgers with a combined no-hitter. And then they went on a five-game losing streak.
On Tuesday, the Cubs loaded the bases in the seventh inning and put runners on first and second in the eighth and ninth – so close to tying the score. Instead, the Cubs went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position over the course of the game.
“When we were at our best, we were getting that two-out knock with a man at second, or turning it over a little bit more,” Ross said. “Right now, we're not. The intent’s there to get to that point, great at-bats, tough matchups. Guys not in the best position matchup-wise, but guys are coming through, and I think that's all you can ask.”
A prime example came in the ninth inning, when backup catcher Jose Lobatón pinch hit in the ninth inning with two outs and two runners on.
Cubs stars Anthony Rizzo (back tightness) and Kris Bryant (right side soreness) were unavailable.
“Both of them, sore,” Ross said after the game. “Unable to try to take some swings. Both of them didn’t work out real well.”
Then, Lobatón suffered a “pretty serious” shoulder injury trying to beat out a ground ball to first.
The surge of injuries has characterized this MLB season as a whole, coming off a shortened 2020 season. But it’s also played into the Cubs’ slide, first striking contact hitters Nico Hoerner (hamstring) and Matt Duffy (back) from the lineup. This series, Rizzo and Bryant’s absences have been even more glaring.
With their timelines uncertain, things don’t seem to be getting any easier for the Cubs as they enter July. After closing a three-game series at Milwakee Wednesday, they head to Cincinnati to face another staunch starting rotation.