The Cubs’ bullpen is dealing with injuries (hurry back, Pedro Strop) and other nagging issues (are Mike Montgomery and Joe Smith contractually bound to give up a run a day?).
Starter John Lackey has some discomfort in his shoulder, and right fielder Jason Heyward still can’t find his long-lost bat.
We could go on. Or could we? The list of Cubs problems really isn’t that long. The league is filled with managers who would rush to the front of the line to swap troubles with Joe Maddon.
Yet there is one other nut Maddon and his coaching staff would love to crack as soon as possible, and that’s shortstop Addison Russell’s relative inability to hit on the road.
The 22-year-old Russell has been a star with his bat at Wrigley Field, where he’s hitting .271 and slugging .512, with 10 home runs and 52 driven in. Away from home, the numbers collapse across the board: .214, .305, four and 19, respectively.
As a rookie last season, Russell was a better hitter at Wrigley. But the gap between his home and road performances was small enough that no one seemed to notice it.
Now? It’s pretty hard not to notice — and be puzzled by — the Russell trend. Later this week, the Cubs head west for nine games in Denver, San Diego and Los Angeles. Will Russell remember to pack his lumber?
Up: Given the Cubs’ bullpen imperfections, can we remind everyone that Aroldis Chapman has an ERA of 1.04 and an absurd WHIP of 0.23 in nine appearances since joining the team? He’s pretty good.
Down: One has to wonder how easily Carl Edwards Jr. will be able to shake off Saturday’s disastrous eighth inning. Tasked with preserving a 2-2 lead against the Cardinals, Edwards instead came unglued, walking four and allowing five runs in the worst outing of his young career. The five runs matched the total Edwards had given up over his first 23 big-league appearances.
Down: Coming off a breakthrough July performance at the plate, Javy Baez has given the Cubs little in August. His 35 at-bats have yielded only two extra-base hits, zero walks and an on-base percentage of .194.
1 THROUGH 9
1. Cubs: Raise your hand if your concerns about this team are expanding. Come on — embrace the anxiety. Being the best team in baseball isn’t supposed to be easy.
2. Nationals: After missing a handful of games with a neck injury, Bryce Harper is back in the lineup and looking to heat up for the stretch run. It’s not too late for him to turn his season around.
3. Indians: They’re tied with Boston for the best run differential (plus-104) in the A.L. How much will that number grow over three days at Progressive Field against the White Sox?
4. Blue Jays: The A.L.’s best road team is at the start of a stretch of 15 of 21 games away from home. Will the good travel vibes continue?
5. Rangers: Back-to-back shutout defeats at home against Detroit wasn’t a great look, but no biggie. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy — six homers in August — was a great trade-deadline get.
6. Orioles: Up next: an eight-game homestand — a chance to make a big move atop the A.L. East while Toronto and Boston are on the road.
7. Giants: Even the Cubs bullpen was impressed when Santiago Casilla and his fellow relievers blew a six-run lead to the O’s on Sunday. That dropped San Francisco to 9-18 since the All-Star break.
8. Dodgers: A fresh batch of injuries to their starting pitching staff is just what these guys needed, right? At some point, the bottom has to fall out.
9. Mariners: Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager compose perhaps the most underappreciated trio of sluggers in the game. The M’s are in the wild-card picture to stay.
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.