Cubs drop series to Cardinals, head home with losing record, questions

ST. LOUIS — Maybe the 10-game homestand that starts Tuesday is what the Cubs need.

Maybe a few more hitters will get healthy and the weather will start to warm up the bats.

Maybe the three scoreless innings at the end of right-hander Jake Arrieta’s start Sunday is a sign of what’s to come from the struggling starter.

Maybe.

Yadier Molina circles the bases after homering off Jake Arrieta in the second inning Sunday. He added a solo home run off Brian Duensing later in the game.

The only thing for sure is that there are a lot more maybes than certainties about the potential of this Cubs season after a 5-0 loss Sunday to the Cardinals left them with a losing record and their fourth series loss in their last five.

‘‘We would obviously like to be playing better than we are right now,’’ said Arrieta, who allowed two-run home runs to Yadier Molina in the second and Matt Carpenter in the third. ‘‘I don’t think there’s any reason to panic. I think that the talent we have here will correct itself and start to turn itself around.

‘‘Yeah, we’d like to win a few more games than we are and tighten things up a little bit. But guys are showing up ready to play and going about themselves the right way. We’re just not necessarily getting the results we’d like.’’

Arrieta (4-3) said he had his best stuff of the season, and manager Joe Maddon said he noticed a return of some of Arrieta’s missing velocity on an 83-degree day.

But Arrieta’s 91 to 93 mph fastball was still off his typical past velocity. And while he threw a lot of strikes, seven of them were struck for hits, including the seventh and eighth homers he has allowed this season. That’s already halfway to the total he yielded last season.

‘‘Some bad luck, some just mistakes that they’re taking advantage of,’’ he said of the homers. ‘‘Right now, it seems like the mistakes I’m making, they’re not fouling off or taking or swinging and missing; they’re making pretty solid contact. I’ll continue to be aggressive.’’

Arrieta, who’s ERA crept up to 5.44, is confident he’ll return to the kind of form that enabled him to win 18 games last season, plus two on the road in the World Series.

Maddon sounded even more confident Arrieta soon will find himself on a lengthy run of success.

‘‘I don’t get off a bandwagon very easily,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I really believe he’s going to be fine. I believe it’s just going to be almost like a snap of the fingers; everything’s going to fall back in place. Just something’s going to click, and he’s going to be back close to where he had been.

‘‘Velocity’s probably the biggest [thing]. When you start seeing that perk back up and seeing the called strikes and being able to pitch in the strike zone with misses, that’s when you’re going to see him really take off again.’’

For now, Arrieta will build off his 85-pitch effort and look to break out from a six-start stretch in which he has only one quality start.

And the Cubs, who were without Kris Bryant (stomach bug), Ben Zobrist (back) and Jason Heyward (finger) in the lineup, will look to heal and rest on their day off Monday — and then try to get even healthier against the Reds, Brewers and Giants at home.

The Cubs dropped below .500 for the first time since they were 6-7. They haven’t been more than one game below this season.

‘‘We’re all frustrated; nobody wants to suck,’’ left-hander Jon Lester said after losing Saturday. ‘‘But we’re grinding. We’re trying to figure out a way.’’

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

 

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