If anything, the Cubs’ 7-2 loss to the moribund Colorado Rockies Tuesday night put a spotlight on the club’s need for a starting pitcher by Friday’s trade deadline.
The front office acknowledged as much even before AAA option Dallas Beeler put the Cubs into a 4-0 hole just seven batters into the game and failed to make it past 11.
But team president Theo Epstein all but ruled out a big-ticket acquisition this week, and the most trade buzz around this team Tuesday was created when manager Joe Maddon double-switched Starlin Castro out of the game in the eighth inning – briefly setting off trade speculation over the shortstop who has been shopped by the Cubs in recent weeks.
The bottom line is Maddon might become the rare manager in contending position this week to be handed a do-it-yourself assignment for the final two months of the season.
Maybe the Cubs land a rent-a-dent arm for the fifth spot that Beeler abdicated Tuesday. Maybe recently waived-and-retained Clayton Richard – who pitched well at AAA Iowa Tuesday – gets that start Sunday in Milwaukee.
Either way, it may be up to the guys in-house to make the run their manager has waited for all season.
“I’m good with that,” said Maddon, who has been predicting an offensive renaissance for his lineup for more than a month.
That prediction looked like even more of a long shot the way some guy named Yohan Flande handled the lineup for five innings Tuesday night.
“You can slice it, dice it any way we would like – we have to start becoming more offensive more consistently,” Maddon said. “They did not throw among their best guys at us, and they got us. We ran into that [Friday] with the Phillies with Jerome Williams. Great guy, good pitcher, but nevertheless he’s had a tough year.
“We have to be able to take advantage of those moments.”
It’s not going to get any easier. The Cubs are 6-9 through this stretch of 20 straight against sub-.500 teams – with the pitching-rich Pirates and red-hot Giants right behind them.
Maddon clings to optimism because: “There’s a lot left in the tank offensively over the next two months.”
But there also were four rookies in the lineup the last two nights – five counting Beeler on Tuesday – none of whom have played through a September. Even big right-fielder Jorge Soler, who had a good night at the plate Tuesday, is just 17 games shy of his lifetime high for a season – with more than two months left in the season.
And the bullpen has shown cracks again. And the Giants are on the kind of run (winning 12 of 14) that could quickly put big distance on the Cubs for the last wild-card position in the National League
The Cubs’ ideal bat on the market, Ben Zobrist, went to Kansas City from Oakland Tuesday. The top reliever on the market, Jonathan Papelbon, went to the Nationals from the Phillies. The Cubs at various points pursued both players.
At this point the Cubs are counting on the returns from the DL in the next few weeks of infielder Tommy La Stella and catcher Miguel Montero and the possible promotions of prospects such as Javy Baez and reliever Carl Edwards Jr.
“A lot of times the answers do lie within,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to get more out of the group that’s here.
“Let’s just play this out.”