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Cubs relying on experience to overcome slow start

Last season, the Cubs got off to a 13-3 start and rode it to a National League Central championship. They had hoped to start just as hot this season, but that hasn’t proved to be the case. 

Chicago Cubs v Pittsburgh Pirates
“We’ve got a lot of veterans, we don’t have many young guys,” manager David Ross said. “Guys that understand the 162 dynamic
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Last season, the Cubs got off to a 13-3 start and rode it to a National League Central title. They had hoped to start just as hot this season, but that hasn’t proved to be the case.

Their offense exploded Saturday, but it otherwise has been an Achilles heel for them. Almost as a whole, the hitters have been quiet. Despite that, they have leaned on veteran experience and know-how to resist the temptation to push the panic button and start pressing.

‘‘We’ve got a lot of veterans; we don’t have many young guys,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘Guys that understand the 162[-game] dynamic, and they just continue to try to keep that steady heartbeat. Getting off to a good start is important, and these guys didn’t. But I hadn’t seen any wavering in their mental state.’’

In a typical starting lineup, the youngest batter is Ian Happ, and he pretty much has been in the majors since 2017. And the Cubs’ core group of players is backed up by guys who have been in the majors for a while, such as Eric Sogard, Jake Marisnick and Austin Romine. There’s a lot of experience in the locker room.

After the offense put up big numbers in a 13-4 victory Saturday, Javy Baez and Kris Bryant said there was a sense of relief up and down the lineup. They saw the breakout as an indication that their approach at the plate had been sound, even if the results had not been coming.

‘‘As a group, we’re starting to feel a lot better,’’ catcher Willson Contreras said. ‘‘We’re seeing a lot of pitches in every at-bat, and that’s a good sign for us. The chemistry is still here. We’re supporting each other.’’

Time will tell whether this offense will be able to produce consistently, but it isn’t in panic mode yet.

Lineup stability

Ross hasn’t hit the panic button, either. He has been consistent with his lineups, even as his hitters have struggled. In his opinion, it’s too early to make major changes to the lineup card.

‘‘There’s always that time where you have to tinker with things,’’ Ross said. ‘‘But I don’t know that two weeks in is quite the time yet — for me at least.’’

His players appreciate the sense of normalcy brought by the stability, Ross said, and his backups are comfortable with the playing time they’re getting.

Through 15 games, Ross has made only slight changes to his lineup from one game to the next. He thinks the group he puts on the field each day is the right one, even when the players are slumping.

‘‘When things aren’t going well, you want to tinker with things,’’ Ross said. ‘‘There’s also an understanding from my seat that the success that we need to have is going to come from the group of guys that are that core group of guys.’’

Nightmare inning

Entering play Sunday, Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks never had given up four home runs in a game. The Braves hit four in the first inning for a combined distance of 1,599 feet.