Cubs hitters are going to have to start — what’s the word? — hitting.
Their starting pitchers can’t always pitch the way they did for much of the first half. Nobody’s pitchers can. There are going to be periods in which the pitching isn’t going to be lights out, as hard as that might be for the true believers to grasp.
The Cubs have dropped six of their past seven games, including a 6-1 loss to Miami on Sunday. In those losses, they scored just 16 runs, which included a six-run “outburst’’ Saturday. Every part of the team has played a role in the rough stretch, but the lack of hitting has been particularly noticeable.
We can talk forever about the Cubs’ excellent patience at the plate, but Jason Heyward, Addison Russell and Miguel Montero, among others, need to hit. There’s no shame in struggling against the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez, who struck out 13 Sunday. He’s great. But scoring only two runs Thursday against Miami’s Wei-Yin Chen, who came into the game with a 5.22 earned-run average, is not so easily explained.
The Cubs are extremely fortunate that Jon Lester, John Lackey, Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel have pitched as well as they have in the first half. It has helped mask a mediocre hitting attack. The Cubs are ranked 15th in team batting average (.254), which is exactly in the middle of the pack. Thank goodness for Ben Zobrist’s career first half.
To expect Lester, Lackey, Hendricks and Hammel to stay near career-year pace is not just unrealistic but delusional. Jake Arrieta has looked human, at least by his standards, and that has still been very good.
The guys with the bats should have stepped up by now. Lots of us have been saying that it’s a matter of when, not if, the Cubs start hitting better. But maybe this is what they are. Maybe Heyward is destined to be a .233 hitter this season, and maybe Russell doesn’t have the offensive skills to go with his solid fielding. Maybe Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are going to have to carry the entire load.
If so, forget what I said about the improbability of Lester, et al, having career years. That will need to be upgraded to probable, pronto.