ST. LOUIS – Is it time to worry yet?
“Worry I think is a strong word,” Cubs pitcher John Lackey said after the Cubs lost again Monday, this time 4-3 on Randal Grichuk’s walkoff home run with two out in the ninth.
All right, how about concern? Consternation? Unease? Frustration?
“Yeah, it is frustrating a little bit,” Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist said after the Cubs third consecutive loss and sixth in eight games.
It was the eighth loss in 12 games dating to that doubleheader sweep at the hands of the woeful Padres at home – after the Cubs had built an 8½ -game lead in their division barely a month into the season at that point.
“But it’s still so early,” said Zobrist, whose three hits included a leadoff single in the fourth that led to the Cubs’ first run. “We weren’t thinking too high of ourselves. We know it’s a long season.
“We just haven’t had the results the last week and a half, two weeks here.”
Whatever the mood on Cubs-related social media, the frustration in the clubhouse is limited to a struggling lineup that has produced just 16 runs in the eight losses the past two weeks – twice losing 1-0.
Their starting rotation still leads the majors in ERA. And Lackey was on his way to his most dominant start of the season, and possibly a complete game, until leaving a pitch up with two out in the seventh that pinch-hitter Matt Adams drove over the right-field wall to tie the game.
“It looked pretty good, didn’t it?” Lackey said. “For awhile.”
And then the Cardinals did what they did to these Cubs much of the first half last year, until the Cubs got hot after the All-Star break.
It’s not like the Cardinals were going to fade away this year just because the Cubs beat them in that series last month or because the Pirates have handled them early.
“It’s a long season, man,” Lackey said. “They’re a good team. They’ll be fine. We’ve got to worry about ourselves man. If we play our game we’ll be OK.
“But we need to play better, 100 percent.”
Already coming off their first consecutive series losses since August, the Cubs are in danger of losing three straight series for the first time in more than a year (May 1-10, 2015).
“We’ve just been scuffling, obviously, offensively, and there’s nothing you can do besides just work your way out of it and keep swinging,” said “Benjamin Button” Zobrist, who’s 41-for-106 spree (.387) in his last 30 games defies the other big number he’s working on this week:
He turns 35 on Thursday.
“It’s probably the best [stretch] I’ve ever had,” he said.
But it hasn’t been enough for a struggling lineup that only had the road get tougher with Jason Heyward’s injury absence from the No. 2 spot the last three games.
“He’s a big part of our lineup, so obviously we’d like to have him in there,” Zobrist said. “ But we want him to be healthy too. Hopefully he can get in there soon and be back to our old selves.”
Meanwhile, manager Joe Maddon doesn’t seem concerned.
“Right now we’re playing a good game of baseball in all areas,” Maddon said. “We’re just not getting the hit when we need it, which I know we will.
“There’s a lot to be encouraged by. I’m not discouraged by anything, because we’re still playing good baseball.”