Cubs swept by Angels as offensive struggles continue

The Cubs starting pitching has been consistent lately, but that hasn’t translated to the winning streak the team needs.

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The Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki bats during the ninth inning of Thursday’s game against the Angels.

The Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki bats during the ninth inning of Thursday’s game against the Angels.

Mark J. Terrill/AP

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The game was within reach for the Cubs entering the final inning. But each hitter went down in order. Strikeout. Groundout. Pop out. Game.

With the 3-1 loss Thursday, the Cubs were swept by the Angels and extended their losing streak to four games.

“We had a really good month, and we had a really bad month, and we need to play well,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said earlier this week. “And the frustrating thing, I think, is that we haven’t been able to rattle off win streaks.”

Instead, the yoyo results continued. This week, they split with the Padres and lost the series to the Angels. Last week, the Cubs were swept by the Reds and then won two out of three against the Rays.

“We’ve got to continue to tack on runs,” manager David Ross said before the game Thursday. “We’ve got to take a four-run lead and turn it to five. We’ve got to be able to come through in moments and find a way.”

Since the Reds series, starting pitching has been consistent. Entering Thursday the rotation had posted a 2.68 ERA over the last week and a half, the third-best mark in MLB over that span. It powered them to four straight one-run games, three of which the Cubs won. But those games were also close because the offense has been struggling. And in Anaheim, a few bad innings from relievers exacerbated the issue.

“We’re all struggling a little bit collectively right now,” first baseman Trey Mancini said of the offense. “But you can’t dwell on it. It’s a game where you’ve got to come back the next day. And that’s the beauty of it: if something doesn’t go your way one day, you can come back and have a great game the next day. So we’ve got to keep that mindset and remember what we were able to do earlier in the season, and just build off that.”

Over the Cubs’ last five series, entering Thursday, only Miguel Amaya (.364), Mike Tauchman (.300) and Dansby Swanson (.263) were hitting above .250.

In the Cubs’ first two games against the Angels, those struggles manifested in earlier scoring and then loading the bases late with a chance to take the lead, to no avail.

In the Cubs’ 7-4 loss Tuesday, Yan Gomes had already doubled as part of the Cubs’ second-inning rally when he stepped up to the plate in the seventh with the bases full. He roped a line drive to the left side of the field, 105.4 mph off the bat. But Angels shortstop Zach Neto was there to snag the liner and flip to second for an inning-ending double play.

In their 6-2 loss Wednesday, Trey Mancini had recorded a tying RBI double in the fifth inning. In the sixth, he stepped into the box against Angels hard-throwing rookie Ben Joyce, who didn’t throw a fastball under 99 mph, with the bases loaded, two outs, and the game knotted 2-2 in the sixth. Mancini fouled off three fastballs before grounding out on an 0-2 slider.

“Timing was a little late the first pitch there, and I’d like that one back,” Mancini said of the 102.8 mph fastball. “But he executed his pitches really well the rest of the bat.”

Then, on Thursday, the Cubs’ only run came on Mancini’s RBI double in the second inning.

How can the offense get back on track?

“I think it’s getting back to probably more of an approach-based mindset,” Mancini said. “A lot of times, myself, and probably a lot of the other guys, whenever you’re not feeling great at the plate, you get really physically oriented with your thoughts and you’re thinking a lot about your mechanics at the plate. … If your mind is on that even a little bit, it’s probably going to take your focus off enough of what the pitcher is going to throw you off a bit.”

With their loss Thursday, they slid to 7 ½ games back of the division-leading Brewers. And the trade deadline loomed less than eight weeks away.

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