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Cubs Extra: How did playoff-tested Cubs suddenly go from road warriors to road worriers?

Cubs “don’t have answers” for their poor play on the road, but a 4.84 road ERA might suggest a clue.

Chicago Cubs v Los Angeles Dodgers
Jon Lester during a loss to the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Of all the inconsistencies and oddities playing out during the Cubs president Theo Epstein’s “year of reckoning,” the strangest might be the 15-22 road record they have after Friday’s 6-3 loss to the Reds — just the first game on a nine-game trip leading into the All-Star break.

It’s the worst in the majors for any team playing at least .500 baseball overall.

“It’s been a source of frustration,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “I think we’ve had subpar road trips; there’s no other way to say it. But it’s not something I read too much into.

“This is a group that’s had a lot of success on the road. They’ve won in hostile environments in the playoffs before, so it’s not like they’re intimidated by crowds or intimidated by travel, but it’s an issue.”

In fact, the Cubs are 10-9 on the road in the postseason the last four years under Joe Maddon.

But they’ve already lost more road series before the end of June (eight) than they did all of last season (seven), and their streak of four consecutive series lost is their longest since they lost six straight during the first half of 2017.

“You can talk about it all you want,” said Jon Lester – the ace of a staff with a 4.84 road ERA. “But we just haven’t played well on the road the last couple road trips. And that’s on us.”

That road ERA is worse than the Marlins and Tigers – two of the worst teams in baseball. Heck, it’s worse than the White Sox.

“If we want to reach our goals then we’re going to have to play better on the road,” Hoyer said. “We’ve had some really tough road series. … But there’s no excuses. We have to play better on the road. I don’t have any answers for it. I’d by lying if I said I do. But I think it’ll change.”

Did you know?

  • With his election on Thursday to the National League starting lineup, Willson Contreras becomes the first Cubs catcher selected to the All-Star Game back-to-back seasons since Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett in 1937. Only one other Cubs catcher has earned multiple selections: Jody Davis (1984, ’86).
  • Veteran Cubs starter Yu Darvish never has pitched at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park – the only one of 30 current parks in which he hasn’t. He’s scheduled to start there Monday.

Hidden figures

8 2/3 – Innings pitched by Adbert Alzolay in two big-league outings, already the third highest total for a homegrown pitcher under Theo Epstein’s eighth-year regime (Rob Zastryzny 34 2/3; James Norwood 12). Alzolay starts again Monday in Pittsburgh.

2 – All-Star starting shortstops on the Cubs’ roster (Javy Baez, 2019; Addison Russell, 2016).

39 Kyle Schwarber’s starts in the leadoff spot this year, matching his career total in four previous seasons combined (through Friday).

347 – Days between Brandon Morrow’s last save for the Cubs and Craig Kimbrel’s first (which came Thursday).

That’s what he said

“When I go out there, I don’t have friends. And he knows that. He’s the same way. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, even with my brother.” — Cubs catcher Willson Contreras when asked after an altercation a few days ago with Braves catcher Tyler Flowers whether he would react the same way if his brother William – a Braves catching prospect – were on the other side.

“I’ve been doing it my whole life. We’ll find out.” — Cubs pitcher Tyler Chatwood to a reporter who suggested the pitcher can’t expect to always rely on double plays to escape the traffic he constantly puts on base (1.55 WHIP).

“A who? ‘Press box way’?” — Cubs manager Joe Maddon, apparently confused when asked about pitcher Yu Darvish’s interaction Wednesday with a press box wag on Twitter.