Cubs’ skid hits three after 4-3 loss to Giants
The result assured the Cubs will lose a series for the first time in nearly a month. They’ll try to avoid a four-game sweep behind Kyle Hendricks on Sunday.
SAN FRANCISCO — The Cubs had hoped to carry the momentum from their three-game home sweep of the Padres into their West Coast trip.
But that momentum hasn’t quite reached California yet, and the Cubs haven’t looked anything like the team they were playing like in the first three games against the Giants.
In a battle of first-place teams, the Giants have gotten the better of the Cubs in each of the first three games of the series. The 4-3 loss Saturday assured the Cubs of their first series loss in nearly a month, and they will look to avoid a four-game sweep behind Kyle Hendricks on Sunday.
‘‘I want to win all the games,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘I don’t think we’ve played terrible baseball. I think the first couple of games, we’ve just come up a little short on them on the front end.’’
Just as they got off to fast starts with two-run home runs Thursday and Friday before ultimately losing both games, the Cubs did the same Saturday. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead after third baseman Patrick Wisdom opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the second inning.
But in each game of the series — much like in some parts of this season — the lack of length from the Cubs’ starting pitchers was the difference.
The Cubs needed innings out of right-hander Kohl Stewart, and it appeared he might be able to give them that early on. He got through the first three innings with one run allowed — on a solo homer by Alex Dickerson — and five strikeouts.
‘‘[The Giants] don’t beat themselves,’’ Ross said before the game. ‘‘They play really good defense, which always helps. . . . Their veteran players are really rejuvenated.’’
Stewart’s day took a turn in the fourth. After a leadoff walk, the Giants began making loud contact against him. The Giants got back-to-back singles from Jason Vosler and Chadwick Tromp to tie the score at 2. Two batters later, an RBI single by LaMonte Wade Jr. gave them a 3-2 lead and ended Stewart’s outing.
‘‘I think they’ve done a nice job all around,’’ Ross said of the Giants. ‘‘They’re just a solid team.’’
If there has been an area of weakness for the Cubs, it has been the lack of consistency from their starting pitchers. And after Stewart’s 3 1/3-inning outing, they haven’t had a starter make it through five innings in this series.
Ross has asked a lot of his bullpen through 58 games, and while the relievers have been lights-out most of the time they’ve been called upon, the strain of being asked to cover 12 or 13 outs a game slowly is starting to show.
‘‘It’s been one of those things that when we’ve gotten the lead and we’ve held it down early, we’ve been able to turn to the bullpen,’’ Ross said. ‘‘When we fall behind earlier or get some traffic and aren’t able to get out of that, it taxes the bullpen at some point. That’s where we’re at right now.”
The offense didn’t have much success against Giants right-hander Kevin Gausman, either. After Wisdom’s home run in the second, a single by Stewart in the third was the only other hit Gausman (7-0) allowed. He yielded two unearned runs and two hits, struck out 10 and walked none in seven innings, lowering his ERA to 1.27.
But after the offense looked dormant for most of the game, the Cubs did make a final push in the ninth. They scored a run and got the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position with two outs before falling short when Jason Heyward grounded to second base to end it.