Cubs’ hitting woes continue in 9-1 loss to Rockies
Third baseman Kris Bryant summed up this moment of the Cubs’ season neatly.
‘‘This is probably the lowest point that I’ve been here,’’ he said after a 9-1 loss Saturday to the Rockies extended the Cubs’ losing streak to four games and dropped them below .500 again at 30-31.
Bryant, the reigning National League most valuable player, went on to say that ‘‘good times are ahead’’ and that the situation isn’t as bad as it looks for the Cubs, who are 2½ games out of first place in the NL Central.
‘‘We can’t panic,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘If we’re panicking, we’re not going to be playing the way we can. You’ll start gripping the bat tighter, gripping the ball tighter, and that’s when you really mess up. It’s OK for fans to worry and all that. It’s just natural.’’
The Cubs have been deficient in various ways this season, which so far has been an underwhelming follow-up to their first World Series championship in 108 years.
But their most glaring deficiency, manager Joe Maddon said before the game, has been batting with runners in scoring position. The Cubs entered the game hitting .216 with runners in scoring position, last in the NL. They also ranked second-to-last in batting average at .233.
Maddon described the Cubs’ issue as ‘‘hitting young.’’
‘‘What I mean by that normally is a ball in the dirt or a ball over your head that we’re chasing,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘Really, there’s no mechanical solution to that.’’
To put it another way, Cubs hitters are making bad decisions at the plate and falling short when they need offense most.
The Cubs — who managed only five hits, all singles — had a chance to put up some runs in the first and fell short. Bryant walked and took third on a single by Anthony Rizzo, who advanced on the throw to put runners on second and third with one out. But Ben Zobrist struck out swinging before Jason Heyward grounded out to end the threat.
That was the only threat the Cubs mustered through the first six innings. Rockies starter Jeff Hoffman retired 18 of 19 batters starting with the strikeout of Zobrist, and Willson Contreras drove in the Cubs’ only run with a single in the seventh.
On Friday, Cubs hitters walked nine times, were hit by two pitches and saw more than 180 pitches. Still, they scored only three runs and lost 5-3.
‘‘Seeing 183 pitches and only scoring three runs, that is almost impossible to do,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘But that does speak to our approach with runners on base.’’
Maddon tried changing things up Saturday, moving left fielder Kyle Schwarber back to the leadoff spot and starting Albert Almora Jr. in center. Shortstop Addison Russell was back in the starting lineup and batted eighth.
Maddon described this as a ‘‘tough moment’’ and was supportive of hitting coach John Mallee.
‘‘I’ve been a hitting coach, and I know how tough it is,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘You live and die with each pitch in the batter’s box. . . . All I can do and all I do is support him and talk to him about guys individually. If I have ideas about different hitters, I’ll give it to him. But it’s not an easy job, and too many times blame falls in that direction.’’
The run-starved crowd roared when Contreras delivered his RBI single in the seventh. It was the only moment to cheer.
‘‘I can’t wait for that day when we turn the page and everyone’s feeling good and we start hitting and making great plays,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘And the fans can get all into it and have fun with it, just like it was all last year.’’
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