Feigning cluelessness and reverting to “one game at a time” coach-isms are handy tactics to avoid discussing unfortunate historical marks. But Cubs manager David Ross seemed genuinely confused when a reporter mentioned the Cubs' soon-to-be-record home losing streak earlier this weekend.
“You’ve got to fill me in on what the record streak that we’re avoiding is,” he said.
With a 9-1 loss to the Royals on Sunday, the Cubs set a new record with a 13-game skid at Wrigley Field.
It would be understandable if the home losing streak truly wasn’t on Ross’ radar. The Cubs had days earlier snapped a straight 12-game losing streak, winning two of three games at Cincinnati. That streak too was notable, setting a new season high and marking the first time since 1954 that the Cubs recorded two double-digit losing streaks in the same season.
The Cubs’ newest record-setting skid, however, highlighted another aspect of the team’s post-deadline rut. Even the Friendly Confines can’t soften the blow of the Cubs’ selloff.
“We're just trying to come in every day and try to do our best and compete,” Ross said. “This is a great environment here, a great place to play.”
Though patches of empty green seats broke up the crowd, the 29,640 in attendance still produced a familiar hum Sunday, and a roar when merited. The Blue Angels soared overhead, kicking the afternoon off with an airshow. Sunshine and a light breeze engulfed the bleachers. Sunday provided the quintessential Wrigley Field day game atmosphere.
In previous years – or even previous months – a natural follow-up would be: Why, then, have the Cubs had so much trouble winning at home?
The answer during this skid, however, is crystal clear. The Cubs sent out half the active roster, including three star core members and the team’s best relievers, in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline. It’s not just Wrigley Field – lately, the Cubs are having trouble winning everywhere but Cincinnati.
“You try to find the things that you can work on and try to focus on areas to get better,” Ross said after the game Sunday. “Everybody when you're at this level wants to win, and it's frustrating when you don't.”
Like the home skid overall, the Cubs’ deficit Sunday built slowly and steadily. The Royals scored in every inning from the second through the sixth, burying the Cubs one and two runs at a time.
“My main goal is to keep us in the game and give us some length,” said Cubs starting pitcher Alec Mills, who gave up seven runs (six earned) in four innings Sunday, “and I really did not do either of those today. So, just go home, play with my son, try to clear my head, enjoy the night, and come back tomorrow and figure out what I need to do to be better next time.”
Several of his teammates had a similar agenda.
Players’ families joined them on the field after the game. Michael Hermosillo chased his young daughter around the outfield. Patrick Wisdom held his infant daughter in one arm and followed his older daughter on the base paths. Rafael Ortega rolled ground balls to his son, who wore a tiny matching jersey.
“These guys work their tail off, and they go out there compete as best they can,” Ross said. “Now, sometimes it doesn't work out. Sometimes it does. Right now, it's not working out a lot. But we’ll put our pants on tomorrow and go out and try to take it to the Rockies.”