Cubs ‘searching’ again in June, but they trust the switch will be there to flip

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The Cubs tend to get a little upside down this time of year but the last three years have also tended to finish strong.

LOS ANGELES — Closer Brandon Morrow, one of the new guys this season, wondered what the fan reaction was when the Cubs struggled into the All-Star break last season with a sub-.500 record.

‘‘Were people panicking last year?’’ he asked.

Of course, they were.

‘‘Are people panicking now?’’ he asked.


‘‘How many games are we out?’’

The Cubs were 2½ games behind the first-place Brewers in the National League Central when they took the field Tuesday against the Dodgers.

‘‘That’s pretty good,’’ Morrow said.

Morrow is a man of few words and, it seems, fewer emotions. But when it comes to the Cubs and their annual June slump, he seemed to speak volumes for the rest of the group — even in the face of a runs-starved five-game losing streak and losses in seven of their last nine games.

As if on cue, Javy Baez broke out with a four-hit night that featured a double, a solo home run and a two-out grand slam in a six-run sixth inning as he and the Cubs earned a 9-4 victory Tuesday against the Dodgers.

Jon Lester (10-2), who was lifted for a pinch hitter with the score tied 2-2 in the sixth, became the NL’s second 10-game winner.

‘‘There’s no panic in this clubhouse,’’ outfielder Ian Happ said.

That has been the refrain in each of the last three seasons, and the Cubs surged to the finish line and into the playoffs each time.

In the last two months of the season the last three years, the Cubs went 42-18 in 2015, 50-17 in 2016 and 36-22 in 2017 for a cumulative .692 winning percentage.

But is there a danger in trusting that the switch always will be there to flip when the time comes, especially for a team that has done it so reliably during the franchise’s unprecedented run of postseason success?

‘‘There’s always a danger,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘I never want anybody to rely on that just happening over and over again.’’

Maddon doesn’t think the strong finishes are accidents. They’re by design. It’s why players get generous rest throughout the season and why nagging ailments are given extra time and even stints on the 10-day disabled list.

Morrow will return from one of those DL stints Wednesday. Third baseman Kris Bryant’s sore shoulder will get an extra week after the Cubs put him on the DL on Tuesday.


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‘‘It’s so that we do do well post-All-Star break,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘But you can never assume anything’s just going to be there because it’s been there before. I’d never want our guys to do that, and I don’t think that’s the case.’’

The Cubs are in better shape this season than they were at this time last season. But the NL also looks as though it has more parity in the top half.

The Cubs’ biggest issue this season isn’t so much this recent struggle, which has been exacerbated by key injuries, but that they’ve been up-and-down all season, regardless of health and strength.


Maddon wants to see more consistency in his hitters’ selectivity and contact with men in scoring position and fewer than two outs. And the starting rotation needs an extended run of successful full turns to start looking like it has the last few seasons.

‘‘When everybody’s here, the [hitters’] timing is on and the pitching is good, there’s nobody that can stop us,’’ Baez said.

The confidence certainly isn’t hurting, even with the struggles. And a clubhouse full of playoff veterans knows the ebbs and flows of a typical season.

‘‘We’re searching,’’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. ‘‘But we’re very talented, so we know it’s just a matter of time.’’

‘‘It happens,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘And in the meantime, that’s when you’ve really got to keep the group together and make sure you adhere to what you believe in and don’t go off on these tangents. That’s the test. You’ve got to pass the test and stay together.

‘‘Nobody likes to lose, but it’s part of this. You can’t be afraid to lose to win.’’

Said Morrow: ‘‘Joe knows.’’

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