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Bats go silent again as Cubs’ September swoon continues

The Cubs managed only two hits in a 7-0 loss to the Pirates. The offense has scored one or no runs in five of the last seven games.

The Cubs got only two hits over seven inning against Pirates starting pitcher Chad Kuhl on Thursday afternoon.
The Cubs got only two hits over seven inning against Pirates starting pitcher Chad Kuhl on Thursday afternoon.
Gene J. Puskar/AP

It’s September, and the Cubs’ offense has looked eerily similar to the group that struggled to put runs on the board in the same month the last couple of seasons.

The Cubs’ offensive woes came to a head in a 7-0 loss Thursday to the last-place Pirates. They mustered only two hits and wound up dropping three of four games in the series.

The Cubs scored eight runs in the four games, with five of those coming in their 5-0 victory Monday. Thursday was the fifth time in the last seven games the Cubs had scored one or no runs.

‘‘I think where we can improve as I look back is just commanding the strike zone,’’ manager David Ross said before the game. ‘‘I think we’ve gotten in a situation where you’re trying to search for hits and search for contact.

‘‘When you’re struggling and you really want to get hits, taking a step back and re-learning the strike zone, commanding the strike zone and making the opposing pitcher throw it in there within that box, is where we can get back to.’’

‘‘You try not to get down on the day-to-day grind because that’s kind of not where you want to be mentally,’’ second baseman Jason Kipnis said. ‘‘You just keep that hope that we’ve got three more games to turn this around. We’re already in the postseason, so let’s work on having good at-bats, work on finding a different feeling than what we have going on right now.’’

Happ gets a breather

Center fielder Ian Happ got the day off, with first baseman Anthony Rizzo taking over the leadoff duties. Happ is dealing with a sore ankle suffered in the Cubs’ 2-1 loss Wednesday.

The day off also was a mental rest day for Happ, who has struggled in September after being the Cubs’ best hitter for the majority of the season.

Happ leads the team with 12 home runs and is second on the team in OPS, but he has a .207/.278/.366 slash line this month.

‘‘[He] may be underneath the ball,’’ Ross said. ‘‘I don’t know if that’s it. His legs may not be underneath him. [He] may be tired. Maybe it’s just timing.’’

Ross on World Series

Ross made headlines for his outlook before the 60-game season, saying: ‘‘If they’re passing out a trophy, I want it.’’

Ross hopes his team will be hoisting the trophy, but he thinks whoever wins the World Series should have a lot to celebrate.

‘‘I’m not a historian, per se, for baseball; I kind of live in the moment,’’ Ross said. ‘‘But I definitely think whoever wins the World Series this year, this is the hardest. I’m a first-year manager, so I have zero background on this, other than just talking to other managers and listening around.

‘‘This is the hardest baseball season I think anybody’s ever really had to go through from what I’m hearing from other people and the protocols and the issues that these guys have had to deal with. Whoever wins the World Series this year should be extremely proud of overcoming adversity.’’

Wrigley eyes fans in 2021

A source confirmed an ESPN report that the Cubs are hoping to allow season-ticket holders at Wrigley Field next season.

The team doesn’t expect to reach full capacity at the start of next season, and season tickets make up about half of all the tickets. That’s roughly the number of people the Cubs expect to allow.

The Cubs also will let go about 60 employees on the business side because of the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.