Finding pitches to drive hasn’t been the Cubs’ struggle this September. Doing damage with those pitches has been another story.
They’ve feasted in the past on fastball counts or situations with count leverage, but more often that not this season, they’ve been fouling pitches off or missing in those moments.
“I think when your confidence is down, that’s kind of what happens,” manager David Ross said earlier this week. “When things aren’t synced up and you’re struggling, that’s what happens to hittable pitches.”
With fastball-throwing Yu Darvish on the mound Friday night and an offense looking to break out, something had to give, and the Cubs’ lineup showed up and showed out, mashing four homers in a 10-0 win against the White Sox.
Kyle Schwarber has struggled like much of the rest of the Cubs’ hitters in September and entered Friday with a .441 OPS for the month. In his first at-bat in the second inning, he worked himself into a favorable 3-0 count. After watching two fastballs for strikes, he turned around a 100 mph fastball from Dylan Cease for an opposite-field solo home run to give the Cubs an early lead.
A solo homer wasn’t going to be enough, but it did open things up for the rest of the order.
Rallies also have been hard to come by for the Cubs, especially this week, and with two on and two out in the third, it looked like it might be another disappointing inning. But Willson Contreras made sure that didn’t happen by lining a three-run homer into the Cubs’ bullpen for a 4-0 lead.
Things took off from there as Javy Baez added a solo shot in the fourth to make it three straight innings with a homer. Victor Caratini launched his first homer of the season in the sixth to break the game open.
“That was huge,” Contreras said of his homer. “Once I hit the ball, I flipped the bat and everybody was having fun. They were fired up. Schwarber hit a homer. I’m glad we won this game. … We were focused. We had a tough series against the Pirates. We’re just looking forward to having another good game tomorrow.”
Contreras (2-for-4 with four RBIs) continued his big game with his second homer of the night in the ninth inning. Four of the Cubs’ five homers came on fastballs — a possible sign the offense is finding itself.
“I thought they did a good job of just being ready to hit at all times,” Ross said. “Getting on the heater – I think when you get on the fastball, the timing will come on the off speed. You’ll recognize strikes from balls a little bit better. Just a really nice approach from the group tonight. Great results, they deserved that.”
While pitching has been the team’s strength this month, finding more offense over the final two games would be a boost to its hopes of a deep postseason run.
“You just keep that hope that we’ve got [two] more games to turn this around,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “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. So when the time comes, you’re not just trying to flip the switch and hope that you can roll it out there and be a new lineup.”