CINCINNATI — For the third time in 10 days, the Cubs woke up with the best record in the National League. And for the third time in that stretch, they’re back in second place the next morning.
It’s been that kind of June for the Cubs as they jockey with the Brewers at the top of the National League Central during a taxing part of the schedule with a dinged-up pitching staff and a fired-up fan base driven to social-media mood swings and angst.
Emphasis on June.
“It happens, man,” manager Joe Maddon said after a six-run sixth inning by the Reds sent the Cubs to a 6-2 loss Thursday in the opener of a four-game series at Great American Ball Park.
“We just had an emotionally tough series,” he said of the home series win against the Dodgers. “And then we come down here. Just give us a day. We’ll be back tomorrow.”
The Cubs still have won 16 of their last 24 games and seven of their last eight series to reach the point of flashing in and out of first place since the first week of June.
Maddon attributed a lot of the so-called angst to the nature of Chicago sports and the fan base.
“I kind of like it, I really do,” he said. “There’s a certain level of entertainment value to it. I’ve always liked when a fan base gets into it, and our fan base gets into it.
“You’re always going to have a lot of bandwagon riders. But there’s this core group here that’s very, very loyal. Our fans need to be entertained. And if you want to keep riding that emotional roller coaster, go ahead. And if you choose not to that’s [fine].
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“It’s like investing in the long term as opposed to watching the [stock] quotes every day. That’ll drive you nuts.”
Kyle Hendricks was rolling until uncharacteristically allowing three walks in the disastrous sixth, including one to Eugenio Suarez to force home a run. Hendricks’ night would be over after that.
“That’s not me, giving up walks like that,” said Hendricks, who had gone 21 starts without giving up four walks before surrendering four in each of his last two as he searches for answers mechanically.
Left-handed rookie Randy Rosario, who had performed as well as anyone in the bullpen in 12 appearances this season, came in and allowed a grand slam to Jesse Winker and three consecutive singles for another run.
“Sometimes we make mistakes, and then something bad [happens]. It’s baseball,” he said. “I think I’m going to learn from this, and then everything’s [going to be] good.”
Said Hendricks (5-7): “He’s been awesome for us all year. I put him in a tough spot. He can’t get every guy.”
By the time a 2-0 lead was turned on its head in the sixth, the Cubs’ stock was tanking again on the Twitter market.
It wasn’t the way they mapped out the start of an eight-game road trip that finishes on the West Coast against the Dodgers, especially as they continue to weather the storms from both the heavens and from injuries to key pitchers, including closer Brandon Morrow (back) and setup ace Carl Edwards Jr. (shoulder).
“It’s a juggling act, no question,” Maddon said.
But it’s also still June. And the Cubs are in a far better position than they were a year ago, when they were 37-35 through 72 games.
“I like where we are right now as opposed to last year at this time,” Maddon said.