Any time the Cubs offense scuffles, there's always a dichotomy between the fanbase and the clubhouse.
Many fans believe the sky is falling while inside the home clubhouse at Wrigley Field, the Cubs continue to stay the course and try with all their might not to ride the roller coaster of the season.
That's especially true right now, with the wounds from last season's second-half offensive breakdown still fresh.
It's easy to sweep a slump under the rug after a four-game series against the Dodgers in L.A., but the lineup issues came to a head Tuesday night at Wrigley Field when the Cubs faced the pitcher with the second-worst qualified ERA in baseball (Ivan Nova) and managed just 1 run — on the first pitch of the game, no less.
Yet the Cubs insisted there was no panic inside the clubhouse about the cold bats and to a man, they talked about simply riding the wave and waiting for things to break their way.
So naturally, the Cubs came out Wednesday night and battered around the American League ERA leader Lucas Giolito thanks to a barrage of homers — including Willson Contreras' first-inning grand slam. Contreras' second homer of the night made him the fifth different Cub to reach 15 dingers this season (no other MLB team had more than three players eclipse the 15-homer threshold).
Still, the Cubs know they need to get the offense on a more consistent trajectory and find ways to score beyond just the longball.
"We have to be able to somehow find enough runs to win a game like [Tuesday]," Joe Maddon said. "That's where the run [of wins] is. We have to win some games where your pitching isn't as good that night and we have to score one more. And then when our pitching is that good, we have to score two or three. We just have to be able to do that in order to get on that run."
Wednesday's Contreras-led offensive explosion marked the first time in a week that the Cubs had scored more than 3 runs, but again, much of that was due to facing the Dodgers, owners of the best pitching staff in the NL.
After Tuesday night's loss, Maddon and the Cubs took solace in the fact that they didn't expand the zone too much or get themselves out. They only struck out 5 times against Nova and the White Sox bullpen.
"It's a long season," said David Bote, who homered Wednesday night after not starting Tuesday's game. "It's hard to not be caught up in a couple game stretch where it's not falling. But a lot of hard hits; we're not chasing out of the zone.
"[We know we can't] push a panic button and stress. If you do that, then all of a sudden you start spiraling even more. You trust it and if there's nothing crazy wrong with what our approach is or anything like that, you just find a way to get runs in and get on a nice little hot streak and roll with it."
The Cubs began the season firing on all cylinders offensively, but cracks have started to show in the foundation over the last few weeks as their season record fell to 39-33 after Tuesday's loss.
They're not going to the opposite field with enough authority and situational hitting (or "opportunity hitting," as coach Anthony Iapoce calls it) is still a problem area — the Cubs woke up Wednesday morning with the worst batting average with runners in scoring position (.243) in the NL.
Maddon talked at length about the Cubs' situational hitting before Wednesday's game and was blunt in his assessment:
"We gotta start figuring those moments out," he said. "We were good coming out of the shoot, I thought, and then we've gotten away from it. We've just gotta get back to that moment. There's still time to be able to do that. But that also speaks to why our record is as pedestrian as it is."
But why has the offense taken a turn for the worse after such a hot start? Much like the "broken' stretch in the last couple months of 2018, the Cubs can't really put a finger on it.
"I don't have a strong answer to that," Maddon said. "It's guys in the moment in the game situation and we just have to continually remind them to stay [in the middle of the field and not try to pull the ball.] That's it. It's one of those things to remind. Our guys are definitely capable of readjusting back to that. ... We just have to go out there and get 'er done."