This time, Wrigley Field was teaming with fans. The Cubs’ offense had been clicking throughout the month prior. The team was exceeding low preseason expectations.
On Friday, the Cubs still lost a lopsided game to the Marlins.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Cubs’ 10-2 loss to the NL East’s cellar-dwellers Friday marked the first meeting between the two teams since a best-of-three Wild Card Series at Wrigley Field last year.
In that series, the Cubs scored just one run in two games. They lost the first by four runs. The clear favorite and home team didn’t even force a Game 3.
“Bringing them back is definitely another test,” Ross said before Friday’s game. “A really good pitching staff that has a good fastball, some areas where we've struggled and in the past. … It's not who you play, but when you play them and what kind of strength they're at and how they're playing baseball at the time.”
This time around, there wasn’t much the offense could do in the face of Cubs starter Zach Davies giving up a career-high eight runs. But the Cubs’ bats also didn’t put up much of a fight.
Cubs left fielder Joc Pederson was the exception, accounting for half of the Cubs’ hits and both runs with a pair of solo homers. Sergio Alcántara also reached base twice, both times on walks.
Both are new additions this year. Maybe the Cubs front office diversified the lineup more than it was given credit for this offseason. When the Cubs offense was at its best, the contact bats were shining – the same bats that are collecting dust on the injured list now.
Still without infielders Nico Hoerner (hamstring) and Matt Duffy (back), the Cubs have scored three runs or fewer in each of their past six games. In the past five games, all their runs have come via the homer.
Hoerner isn’t new to the Cubs, but his offseason development made added some power behind his contact-oriented approach. Duffy was a surprise Opening Day roster member who was batting .304 in the month before he landed on the 10-day IL.
“I don't really care how we score runs,” Ross said after the loss Friday, “just that we win games and that we do score. … You’ve got to get guys on base in front of the home runs, I think that matters. Just got to move the baseball around, make a little more contact. I think we’re getting some good at-bats at times, just not able to string it together throughout the lineup.”
At least some of the Cubs’ offensive slippage is natural regression from a high-flying month of May. The Cubs even opened June with two series wins against the Padres, who had ranked first in the National League before a trip to Wrigley Field.
“We just won a bunch of games in a row, led by our offense,” Pederson said. “If we did that the whole year, we’d win 128 games. So, that's just not realistic.”
The Cubs offensive struggles mostly jump off a page because they’re reminiscent of last season. Their opponent Friday made the comparison even more obvious.