Young Cubs get ‘schooled’ by defending champs

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SHARE Young Cubs get ‘schooled’ by defending champs

SAN FRANCISCO – Youth was served again for the Cubs on Wednesday night.

This time on a platter.

It wasn’t quite that conspicuous. But in a close game against a defending World Series champion, a rookie mistake in the first inning and two tough at-bats by rookies against postseason veterans were factors in a 4-2 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park.

“You have to understand our young guys are being schooled a bit,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, “and I love it. It’s a good training ground for down the road this year.”

It was a rare August loss for the young Cubs, who had won 21 of 25 entering the game – the best 25-game stretch for the team since 1936.

It was an especially rare loss to the Giants this season – the first in six meetings with only Thursday’s series finale of this three-game series remaining.

More than anything, as far as Maddon was concerned, it was another lesson for his October-management trainees.

“The other day [Corey] Kluber got us a little bit, but we got the win,” Maddon said, referring to Cleveland’s Cy Young winner. “Understand that. We’ve got some really inexperienced people that are learning on the fly right now. So there’s nothing to be worried about or talk negatively about. We’re learning. And give our guys credit. We fought again.”

Rookie shortstop Addison Russell cost the Cubs a run in the first when he fielded a two-out, bases loaded grounder by Juan Perez and underestimated the speed of rookie Kelby Tomlinson – last year’s Eastern League stolen base leader.

Russell stayed back on the routine grounder and made the short throw to second, but Tomlinson was safe as the Giants tied the score 2-2.

“Give [Tomlinson] some credit, but you’ve got to come get the ball and get rid of it, one way or the other,” Maddon said. “I think that was our guys being surprised by the base runner.”

Russell, who showed off his skills on a spectacular pick-and-spin to start a double play in the third, said he thought Perez’s ball was hit harder.

“Tomlinson’s fast, too,” he said. “You have to take that into consideration as well.”

The Cubs trailed by two in the seventh when a one-out single and error put runners at second and third for Russell and rookie Kyle Schwarber.

But hard-throwing Hunter Strickland struck out Russell on a diet of fastballs, and veteran left-hander Javier Lopez took over to strike out Schwarber on a series of mid-80s, down-and-away “fastballs.”

“I just had to get him up in the zone,” said Schwarber, who singled in two at-bats against Lopez in Chicago earlier this month. “That goes back to me having to slow down the situation and not let that change the way I feel in the box.

“It’s a learning process, and as you get to face these guys again, you get an idea. And you have to make that continuous adjustment as you keep facing these guys.”

Schwarber helped the Cubs get off to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, when he ran hard enough on a popup 15 feet in front of the plate that he wound up on second when it fell between catcher Buster Posey and knocked-down pitcher Jake Peavy.

Fellow rookie Kris Bryant’s two-out line single up the middle eventually drove home both first-inning runs.

And Russell’s double play on a shot to his backhand by Posey was the defensive play of the night.

“That was sweet. I needed that,” said Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks (6-6), who was in the midst of retiring 13-of-14 Giants in a 2-2 game at that point.

“Fabulous,” Maddon said.

The Cubs still lead the Giants by 6½ games for the final playoff slot in the NL, even while losing ground on the NL Central-leading Cardinals (7½ back) and top wild-card leader Pittsburgh (3 games).

Among the 37 games left on the schedule are six against the Cardinals, six against the Pirates, three against the NL West-leading Dodgers, one against Giants World Series hero Madison Bumgarner – and countless moments like they encountered Wednesday night.

“We’re getting tested,” Russell said. “And that’s what we came here to do. Whenever we get called up, we just want to do our job and try to help the team win.”

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