Cubs Insider

From Flushing to 'flush,' Cubs' 1-5 skid exposes needs

Cubs Insider
One of five stolen bases for the Marlins
USA Today

Cubs Twitter Nation blew up during the early innings of the Cubs’ second straight blowout loss to the Marlins because of how hard Jake Arrieta was hit yet again, some calling for the Cubs to replace his ERA with a DFA.

But as NBC Sports Chicago’s Tim Stebbins observed Saturday, this was the Cubs worst, ugliest and most embarrassing loss of the season.

And as much as Arrieta was part of the problem Saturday, it went far beyond the former Cy Young winner who is just 2-6 with a 7.58 ERA and barely four innings a start over his last nine.

In fact, the back-to-back routs by a combined score of 21-3 against a last-place team — in particular, Saturday’s 11-1 beat-down — exposed every weakness and roster deficit the Cubs have tried to comb-over the past week or so as an increasingly difficult schedule this month has begun to take a toll.

“We didn’t play very well in any facet of the game — hitting, pitching, base running, defense,” manager David Ross said. “You just flush that one. Every season I’ve been a part of in my playing career you have a couple of those.”

But before he and the Cubs drop the “flush” lever on that one, it’s worth noting that a few important Cubs roster issues reared ugly heads Saturday — some potentially worth remembering to assess and address next month as long as the Cubs don’t lose much more of the month down the crapper with that flush.

 

When it comes to Arrieta’s struggles, a much more pertinent question to ask than Twitter’s DFA question is: And replace him with what or whom?

Arrieta said his stuff Saturday “was as good as it’s been in a long time,” and he’s right. A couple mistakes might have been costly, but he little help from his catcher or the guys in the field behind him.

“I didn’t pick them up today; that’s the most frustrating part of the game today for me,” said Arrieta, who was competitive against the NL East-leading Mets for most of a five-inning start in his last outing in New York and pitched well enough in the start before that to allow the Cubs to beat Padres ace Yu Darvish in San Diego.

If anything, the swift and severe reaction to this start was a reminder that the rotation depth is the Achilles heel of a team that remained in first place in the NL Central even with its fifth loss Saturday in six games.

Wanna replace him in the rotation? Who you gonna call?

Even when Adbert Alzolay returns Monday after a two-week, finger-blister absence that buckled the rotation, they won’t be at even Opening Day strength, with Trevor Williams (appendectomy) still sidelined. When Robert Stock started for the Cubs Thursday against the Mets in Flushing, he was the sixth spot starter used in a six-day span to backfill for injuries (it did not go well).

A starter at the deadline? Make it two.

Or three.

And while you’re at it …

Is there a catcher on the market? Wilson Ramos anyone?

The Marlins ran at will early in Saturday’s game, in part because Arrieta isn’t exactly a role model for holding runners on — but at least as much because of a lack of regard for the Cubs’ fourth backup catcher the Cubs have used already this year, Jose Lobaton.

The Marlins reached another gear on a trend that was apparent in Lobaton’s first Cubs start earlier in the week in New York: running at will and stealing five bases in five attempts the first five innings.

That only begins to tell the story. Six of seven times a Marlin was on first base with second base open through six innings, he took off for second. In addition to the five steals, Jon Berti stayed out of a possible double play in the fourth because he ran.

The only Marlin who didn’t go was the thick-and-slow Jesus Aguilar, who is so thick and slow that when Jason Heyward lost a ball in the sun with Aguilar on first, Heyward was able to recover and throw out Aguilar at second from right field for a 9-6 fielder’s choice.

That’s the kind of day it was for the Cubs — when even the plays they made were ugly.

And while we’re on the subject of Heyward, did anyone notice the home run he hit in the eighth?

 

The Cubs already trailed by 11 at the time, so maybe you were better off if you didn’t.

But that’s the other thing: All three runs the last two games have come on solo home runs against a Marlins pitching staff that perhaps not coincidentally did this against the Cubs in two playoff games last October.

Facing a lot of good pitching in New York and now back home against the Marlins, the Cubs are back to their April (and October) homers-or-bust, not-good-enough scoring trend.

It’ll probably improve again, either way, when they face more forgiving pitching — sometime next month.

But it’s at least a reminder for now of the injury absences of Nico Hoerner and Matt Duffy, whose contact-hitting skills proved the productive complement to the rest of the lineup.

Hoerner (hamstring) is looking good enough during increasingly intense pregame work that he could be closing in on a rehab assignment within the coming week, and Duffy (back) just got cleared to ramp back up after pushing hard enough in recent days to feel it again.

Meanwhile, our guy Stebbins is right. This was embarrassing for a Cubs team that considers itself a factor in the NatIonal League pennant hunt this season — a Cubs team that had one of the best three home records in baseball before this series against a team that was 13-25 on the road with a minus-26 run differential in those games before Friday.

The Marlins were supposed to be the soft spot on an otherwise daunting June schedule.

“Don’t let the record fool you,” Arrieta said.

He was saying that about the Marlins.

But once the flushing is done from Saturday, it’s up to the Cubs to prove the same can’t be said about them.

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