Cubs living large, but World Series vet cautions: ‘We ain’t done nothing’

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Justin Turner greets teammate Mike Bolsinger and Joc Pederson after hitting a three-run homer off Cubs’ starter Kyle Hendricks in third inning Wednesday.

By the time the Cubs got to the ballpark Wednesday afternoon, they were in full afterglow from winning back-to-back games against the Dodgers’ two Cy Young-winning aces, answering questions from a growing media crowd about their allegedly unparalleled grit and character, and literally dancing to the beat of their own pregame mix during batting practice.

All they were waiting for, it seemed, was for playoff tickets to go on sale.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the first June 24 clinch in baseball history.

Just as they proved they could beat Clayton Kershaw on Monday, the Cubs proved Wednesday they’re just as capable of losing 5-2 to Mike Bolsinger and five Dodgers relievers.

Along the way they proved they’re not the only good team in town – much less the National League. They showed their starting rotation isn’t deep enough to count on big games in September – much less October.

And they offered a reminder of how hard it is to get invited to the dance – much less to dance the last one.

“If you want to end up being in the dance at the end of the season, then you have to bring it every day,” said catcher David Ross, who 20 months ago won a World Series in Boston – and Wednesday cautioned against assuming too much in June about the October caliber of a young team.

Down goes Kershaw? Down goes Zack Greinke?

Sure.

“The other part of that is we’re still in third place,” Ross said. “OK? So we ain’t done nothing, right? Let’s be honest. There’s two teams that are better than us in our division right now; I don’t know if we believe that. But nobody mentions that.

“That’s fine. I love the hype. I know we’re good. I’m not worried about it.

“But let’s keep things in perspective here. We have to come out on a daily basis and prove it every day.”

On this day, the Cubs learned that fifth starter Tsuyoshi Wada still had lingering soreness from Monday’s shoulder “cramping” and is in doubt for Saturday’s scheduled start in St. Louis.

Fourth starter Kyle Hendricks, who has had ups and downs since his exceptional 13-start debut in 2014, lasted just five innings and 71 pitches in a shaky outing in which he gave up a second-inning homer to Adrian Gonzalez and a three-run shot in the third to Justin Turner – three batters after giving up a one-out double to Bolsinger.

“My last two starts I’ve given my team zero chance to win, which is pathetic,” said Hendricks whose last two starts (10 combined innings, 10 earned runs) are the Cubs’ only losses in their last six games. “The feel just isn’t there. I’ve got to change something in my routine or something I’m doing mentally on the mound maybe. I’ve got to find something.”

So does the front office, especially with potential depth piece Jacob Turner suffering a setback during his injury rehab (elbow) and little else for a contender to draw from the system.

“It’s always a concern,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You do need depth there to really take you all the way to the dance because stuff does happen. It always happens. But I know our guys are working on it diligently, and I do believe that there are some guys [in the minors] that we do like that maybe are not getting all the publicity. We’ll just wait and see how it plays out.”

The Cubs already are casting a wide net for starting pitching to add before the July 31 trade deadline, but there’s no sudden deal to manufacture as they face potential cracks at the back of the rotation.

“We had a nice thing going on the last couple days,” Maddon said. “The momentum was in our favor. We just needed a typically good performance out of [Hendricks] and I think we would have been OK again.

“But I have a lot of faith in him. I have no doubt [in him] whatsoever, actually.”

Meanwhile, things won’t get any easier anytime soon.

After big-money ace Jon Lester closes out the Dodgers series Thursday, the Cubs head out on a road trip to St. Louis against the division-leading Cardinals and New York against the pitching-rich Mets following the Dodgers series.

“There’s no, `We’ve arrived and we’re good,’ just because we beat Kershaw and Greinke,” Ross said.

“The most important thing is day to day stay consistent and let’s go out and try to do what we do and compete as hard as we can,” Ross said. And then tomorrow do the same thing.

“Because being good can change in the minute of an injury or you go through a tough stretch and now confidence goes from way up here to down there and then you lose seven in a row.

“It’s about the daily process of being consistent and coming in on a daily basis and playing as hard as you can as a group to beat the other team and then turn the page. Win or lose.”

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