The Cubs’ season forever will be defined by the 11-game losing streak in June and July that changed the direction of the franchise. But that skid, even though it was extremely consequential and set the stage for what the roster looks like now, is far from their only dubious run this season.
On Sunday, the Cubs’ losing made more history. By falling 9-1 to the Royals, they dropped a franchise-record 13th consecutive game at home, breaking the mark set by the 1994 team that finished 49-64.
That bygone roster, with Sammy Sosa, Mark Grace and 57 games of Ryne Sandberg before his first retirement, had the good fortune of seeing its season cut short by the strike in the middle of August. The current group must finish a lost season while trying to evaluate players during a non-competitive stretch run.
‘‘You’re just looking for good baseball players that can sustain consistency and success,’’ manager David Ross said. ‘‘Then you put the pieces around and trust that each individual player’s going to be the version of themselves you saw.’’
One of Ross’ jobs the rest of the way is to keep frustration from building. Because as rough as the recent stretch has been, there’s no reason to think things will get better before the season ends.
For Ross, that means finding things for the team to work on and focusing on areas where the players can improve.
‘‘Everybody, when you’re at this level, wants to win, and it’s frustrating when you don’t,’’ Ross said.
Paying customers at Wrigley Field — at least the ones cheering for the Cubs — haven’t seen much to be happy about recently. Since July 26 — when the Cubs picked up their most recent home victory, thanks to Javy Baez’s game-winning hit against the Reds’ Amir Garrett — they’ve been outscored 99-33 at Clark and Addison.
In front of a disinterested crowd of 29,640, it was more of the same Sunday.
Trying to avoid getting swept by a team that started the day 14 games below .500, right-hander Alec Mills and the Cubs’ bullpen combined to let the Royals score two runs in four consecutive innings from the third through the sixth. Mills, who was drafted by the Royals in 2012, allowed seven runs (six earned) and 11 hits in four-plus innings.
Mills has been one of the Cubs’ steadier pitchers this season, but he wasn’t Sunday. The Royals executed well; he didn’t.
‘‘At the end of the day, my main goal is to keep us in the game and give us some length,’’ Mills said. ‘‘I really did not do either of those today. Just go home, play with my son, try to clear my head, enjoy the night and come back tomorrow and figure out what I need to do to be better next time.’’
The Cubs’ run came in the fourth, when a single by Matt Duffy drove in Ian Happ. But all that did was cut the Royals’ lead to 5-1, as the countdown to the Cubs’ record-breaking defeat was already underway.
Mills said he wasn’t aware of the historical implications of the loss, though he did know the Cubs haven’t won at home in a while.
Streaks or not, it’s hard to escape what has happened to the Cubs since the trade deadline and how challenging the last few weeks might be.
‘‘Obviously, losing is not fun,’’ Mills said. ‘‘There’s really no other way to put it.’’