Cubs

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Cubs

ST. LOUIS — The sky is falling. 

Everything sucks. 

The Cubs will never win another game, let alone score even 5 runs on a given day.

If you hang out on social media or near a particular segment of Cubs fans, these are the thoughts you were hearing for the better part of a week leading into Saturday's game against the Cardinals.

Yes, the Cubs offense had been offensive until scoring 4 runs in the second inning Saturday (with 3 of those runs coming on a pair of broken-bat balls in play and a squeeze bunt on a 3-1 pitch). It was the first time this team had scored more than 3 runs since April 24 in Cleveland.

They couldn't score until the ninth inning Friday night in St. Louis and managed just 2 runs, extending the stretch of games with 3 or fewer tallies to 9 straight games. The Cubs had won 5 of those 9 games, however, thanks to a stretch of phenomenal pitching and defense against the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies. 

The Cubs may not have done well situationally Friday night — going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and leaving 9 guys on base — but they did continue with the opposite field approach the coaching staff has been working on trying to improve since spring training.

"Regardless of whatever your plan may be, every team's gonna go through these moments," Maddon said. "It just happens to be ours right now. I want to continue to work like we have been working.

"I believe in our guys, I believe in our method. It's just the ebb and flow of the season. Right now, it's our turn. We'll come out of it and we'll be fine."

 

The Cubs came into this recent 9-game stretch averaging an even 6 runs per game over the first 20 contests of the season.

No team — no matter how talented — will hit every day from the start of the season to the end.

But it's not also every year you see an offense go through this kind of stretch. The last time the Cubs went at least 9 games in a row without scoring more than 3 runs was 2006, when they pulled this off for 11 straight contests.

So it was never going to last forever, even though it may seem like that if you listened to some panicking Cubs fans.

"We know how good we are, plain and simple," Albert Almora Jr. said after Friday's loss. "We're a confident group. It's baseball — we're not gonna go 162-0."

The Cubs rank 24th in baseball in average with runners in scoring position (.223), which is obviously not a good number, but it is also being dragged down by the .158 AVG the Cubs are boasting in that recent 9-game stretch.

Also encouraging: The Cubs are not slumping due to strikeouts. They've whiffed just 65 times over that 9-game span, or 7.2 strikeouts per game. That's not a crazy number given the landscape of baseball with strikeouts through the roof right now.

The Cubs' strikeout percentage on the season has also gone down slightly from last year, to 21.7 percent from 22.3 percent.

The two worrisome areas of the Cubs' recent offensive woes are the lack of power and the lack of patience. The Cubs walked 9.9 percent of the time last year and 10.4 percent of the time in the World Series winning season of 2016.

In 2018, they're walking only 8.1 percent of the time.

As for the power, that should change when things warm up. The heart of the Cubs order — Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras — has combined for only 7 homers and Addison Russell also hasn't gone deep yet.

The fact the Cubs are 16-13 with Rizzo looking nowhere near the Rizzo we've seen the last 4 seasons is a relative miracle.

"[Bryant] hasn't gotten on track completely with his power and he will," Maddon said. "Same with Rizzo. Rizzo hasn't changed anything and he's hitting [1.74]. It's just where we're at right now.

"I'm not concerned with any of this. It's the ebb and flow of the season. We're young, we're good and we're gonna show it. We're just caught in a little bit of a void right now and we're gonna get out of it."