Cubs

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Cubs

ST. LOUIS — Welcome to the Jekyll and Hyde Cubs.

After trading off wins and losses for most of the first month of the season, the Cubs ended April on a five-game winning streak as the starting rotation flashed its potential for dominance.

Almost a week later and the Cubs will have to wait until after the Cinco de Mayo holiday to pick up their first win in May.

Saturday's 8-6 loss marks the fourth straight loss for the Cubs, with the last three coming as very different, difficult ways to fall.

First, it was Wednesday's "throw it in Lake Michigan with cement shoes" game when the Cubs played what will probably be their worst collective game of baseball in 2018.

Then came Friday's game when the only two earned runs scored in the contest came from the Cubs offense, but not until the ninth inning.

Saturday's was the toughest of all, with the locker room after the game as quiet and solemn as it's been since at least 2017.

"Obviously we know we're not playing our best baseball right now," Saturday's starting pitcher Tyler Chatwood said. "But there's a lot of season left and a lot of time for us to get on the right track and I think we will."

Chatwood was part of the issue Saturday. After the Cubs offense finally recorded a mini-breakthrough and staked him to a 4-0 lead, Chatwood struggled to find the zone and let the Cardinals back in the game with a 4-run fourth inning that began when he walked the first two batters and then hit Kolten Wong to load the bases.

 

"I'm putting myself in bad situations and it's hurting the team," Chatwood said. "There's no reason for that fourth inning to happen right there. Just throw the ball over the plate and let them get themselves out."

Chatwood walked 5 batters on the afternoon, the fourth time in six starts with the Cubs where he has walked at least 5 hitters. He's surrendered 27 free passes in 32.2 innings in 2018.

The 28-year-old starter has obviously been trying to clean up the walks all year and said Saturday evening he feels like he has pinpointed what the mechanical issue is and knows how to correct it in his between-start bullpens.

"It's an easy fix for me," Chatwood said. "I know I can do it in my bullpens; I've proven I can do it. It's just a matter of taking it into a game and doing it."

Joe Maddon doesn't see the alarming number of walks as a mental issue for Chatwood.

"I just think it's the way he throws — his delivery is subject to that," Maddon said. "There's a lot of moving parts. I think more than anything, it's delivery-related because he's pretty tough.

"I just think he needs to find that rhythm. It's a complicated delivery. Sometimes when you're like that, if you're not all together, it's not in rhythm, you have a hard time finding your release point, for lack of a better term. So I think that's what you're seeing with him."

The Cubs didn't help Chatwood out in that disastrous fourth inning with Anthony Rizzo's throw deflecting off Addison Russell's glove to allow the second run to score and prolong the inning. The play was initially ruled an error on Rizzo, but changed to an error on Russell after the game.

The next batter, Matt Carpenter, sent a ball out into deep left field where Kyle Schwarber wasn't able to come up with the catch on a tough — but makeable — play. 

The Cubs stormed back to regain the lead thanks to solo homers from Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo, capping off a nice day from the offense that finally scored more than 3 runs for the first time in 10 games.

The good vibes didn't last long, as things went south agan for the Cubs in the ninth as closer Brandon Morrow allowed his first two runs of the season after going roughly six weeks and 10 innings without surrendering a tally.

"Any day of the week — eight days out of seven days — I'll take Morrow with a 2-run lead in the ninth," Maddon said. "They got us, it's the fifth day, Cinco de Mayo, there won't be as much celebrating tonight as anticipated.

"...Hey, we lost with our best guy out there. It just happens once in a while."

 

After Victor Caratini was robbed of a pinch-hit, go-ahead RBI by a nice leaping snare from Carpenter at third base in the top of the 10th inning, Luke Farrell served up the walk-off blast to Wong.

The end result is a guaranteed series loss this weekend in St. Louis, where the Cubs celebrated clinching the division the last time they were in town. 

The Cubs will have to avoid a sweep Sunday night and have to avoid falling 3.5 games behind the first-place Cardinals, even if there is still nearly five full months of season left to play.

"We were in a position to win and we came up short," Rizzo said. "Vs. them, we're here, it's tough, but we bounce back tomorrow."