Cubs take it on the chin from Padres, stay patient with hitting woes

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Anthony Rizzo is hit by a pitch during the Cubs’ two-run first inning Monday. (Photo: John Antonoff for the Sun-Times)

SAN DIEGO — Who’s your Padre?

Hunter Renfroe, who hit the game-turning grand slam Monday in the fourth inning off Kyle Hendricks?

Jose Torres, the left-hander who pitched two scoreless innings for the 5-2 victory against the Cubs and added a single off Hendricks and scored an insurance run in the fifth?

Or Jarred Cosart, the Padres’ starter, who loaded the bases the first two innings, allowed five walks, threw more balls (45) than strikes (42) . . . and left the game with the lead?

If you’re the Cubs, there is no right answer.

Only persistent questions for the team that won the World Series on Nov. 2 but has been as unrecognizable as an average Padre ever since.

Before the Cubs’ fourth loss in as many games on this West Coast trip dropped their record back to .500, Kris Bryant was asked about the increased fight the Cubs seem to be getting from opponents.

“I don’t get the sense that they’re playing any harder against us because we won the World Series,” he said. “But I don’t think we’ve played a bad team yet. Seems like all the teams out there have gotten better and continue to get better. It stinks for us, but it’s good for baseball, I guess.”

And then the Cubs took the field against the team with the second-worst record in the majors. And took a 2-0 lead. And drew 10 walks. And failed to add on despite 12 more (hitless) plate appearances with men in scoring position after Jason Heyward’s two-run single in the first inning.

And lost by three.

Maybe, as former Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano once noted in a poignant moment of self-reflection, it’s more like, “We stinks.”

The Cubs say they’re not panicking. After getting swept over the weekend in Los Angeles, manager Joe Maddon smiled when asked about fans’ consternation and said, “If you want to freak out, freak out.”

But if it’s not time to panic, it’s also not early anymore as the Cubs continue to play footsie with mediocrity 50 games into the season.

And if it’s not time to freak out, it’s at least time to consider making some changes to try to shake things up.

“I have no idea what that would be,” said Maddon, who moved Kyle Schwarber from No. 1 to 2 in his lineup just over a week ago and has begun to sit him routinely against left-handers.

Schwarber has gone 2-for-20 with eight strikeouts since.

“We have tried everything possible,” Maddon said. “Guys have been rested. We’ve given guys days off.”

Slumping rookie Ian Happ, who was out of the starting lineup, came off the bench in the eighth against left-hander Brad Hand and struck out for his fifth strikeout in six at-bats. He’s 2-for-22 over the last week.

But it’s not all Schwarber and Happ. Addison Russell led off the second with a triple and was stranded. Anthony Rizzo popped to short to end that inning, popped to left with two on and none out in the seventh and is 2-for-15 during the four-game skid.

Maddon praised Heyward’s at-bats and Jon Jay’s off the bench.

“I thought Schwarber worked good at-bats,” Maddon said. “I was happy with all of that. The grand slam got us.”

And the wait continues for the team that won everything in 2016 to start doing something in 2017.

“These are our players,” Maddon said. “I have all the faith in the world. We just came off a 7-2 homestand; everybody loved us a couple of days ago. Now, all of a sudden, we’ve had a tough time scoring runs on the road. And we’ve just got to do better. That’s all this comes down to.”

Follow me on Twitter @GDubCub.



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