Opposing teams must feel a bit like beating the Cubs is akin to a game of whack-a-mole lately. As more of their roster heads to the trainer’s table, another player from the depth chart pops in and they keep winning.
With a 10-2 victory Saturday against the Reds, the Cubs stretched their winning streak to six games, despite a growing list of injured players.
In the fourth inning, David Bote separated his left shoulder sliding into second base. Cubs manager David Ross swapped in Patrick Wisdom at third. Wisdom drew a walk in the sixth inning ahead of Eric Sogard’s bases-loaded free pass that gave the Cubs the lead.
In the seventh, Rafael Ortega — in the lineup in right field with Jason Heyward still on the injured list — added an insurance run with a solo shot to the basket in right.
“I’m thankful for the guys that are coming up and playing hard and having success,” Ross said. “That’s the sign of a good organization when you could get guys pulling from the minors, they come up, fit right in, have good at-bats. It’s a testament to their professionalism, their hard work down in Triple-A and the [alternate] site last year and early on this season. As much as it stinks, I’m also thankful for the guys that are coming up here and giving me their best effort.”
With a healthy roster, these guys would not be taking many at-bats in the late innings of a close game.
But having players like Wisdom, Sogard and Ortega chipping in set up RBI singles from Joc Pederson and Kris Bryant that put the game out of reach in the sixth.
“I think it’s massive for us from an offensive standpoint to have guys coming in and getting on base,” Ian Happ said.
The remaining regulars are still doing their part. The first four in the batting order all drove in at least one run, and Pederson, Bryant, Javy Baez, Happ and Willson Contreras combined for five straight singles in the eighth to tack on three more runs.
The Cubs have cultivated a “next man up” mentality in the clubhouse by showing faith in the depth of the roster, even down to the players like Wisdom and Ortega.
“I think we noticed that in spring training with how deep this squad was and how well everyone is able to perform,” Sogard said. “Unfortunately, we have had some injuries. But you know we have guys stepping up, guys ready who come in and fill the job. That’s why we’re continuing to win even though we don’t have all our bullets.”
The Cubs have 10 players on the injured list, with Bote likely to join them. He will undergo further evaluation in the next couple of days. Anthony Rizzo is still day-to-day with discomfort in his lower back.
The backups seem to be doing just fine for the time being, but the already short-handed offense could use some healthy bodies.
There’s hope on that front: Rizzo did mobility work before the game and felt better, according to Ross. Heyward is eligible to come off the 10-day injured list after suffering a strained hamstring, and he ran the bases with no issue Friday and Saturday. And according to Ross, Matt Duffy (strained lower back) and Jake Marisnick (strained right hamstring) also are progressing well.
Cubs starter Zach Davies continued his own improvement. He got off to a slow start in April, but he has posted a 1.72 ERA this month, including five innings and one run allowed Saturday.
“Last couple times out, mechanics, the way the ball comes out of my hand, command and location, it all feels pretty good right now,” Davies said.