‘Rust’? More like bust. These Cubs are almost out of chances to make their season matter

In an 11-5 loss to the Red Sox on Sunday, the Cubs looked like a team late for a long nap, not a team fighting for its life with time disappearing before president Jed Hoyer says to hell with it and goes into sell mode.

SHARE ‘Rust’? More like bust. These Cubs are almost out of chances to make their season matter
The Cubs’ Ian Happ after striking out against the Red Sox at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs’ Ian Happ after striking out against the Red Sox at Wrigley Field.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Needed it.

Didn’t get it.

Not even close.

The Cubs’ 11-5 loss to the Red Sox in Sunday’s series rubber match at Wrigley Field was so bad. How bad? So bad, they trailed 11-0 before scoring some late runs that were so utterly meaningless, it almost offended the senses. So bad, their All-Star lefty, Justin Steele, was outpitched by catcher Tucker Barnhart, who threw a scoreless ninth. So bad, they looked like a team late for a long nap, not a team fighting for its life with time disappearing before president Jed Hoyer says to hell with it and goes into sell mode.

Serious opportunity visited the Cubs in the form of a 10-game homestand — against three last-place opponents — out of the All-Star break. The Red Sox actually are pretty good, and maybe better than any team in the Cubs’ division, but still. The Cubs needed at least seven or eight wins on this homestand to make their season matter again. With the Nationals and Cardinals still coming to town, the Cubs could be in for a really good week — or their own funeral.

“We’ve got the Nationals coming in here, and the division race is still really close,” manager David Ross said. “I think every team [is] hoping to get out of the break well, but there’s a little bit of rust there for everybody.”

Rust? That’s one word for it.

“Bust” comes to mind, too. As do “mistrust” and “disgust.”

The Cubs are six games under .500 at 43-49 and basically are the same subpar squad at home (22-24) that they are everywhere else (21-25). Why would that suddenly change? Let’s face it, it probably won’t.

We’re going to blink and it will be Aug. 1.

“The trade deadline is obviously a real thing,” Nico Hoerner said. “If anything, the attitude should just be attacking it, embracing it and doing it on our own terms. It’s not a decision anyone in this locker room is going to get to make, so control our end of it as best we can.”

With seven games left on the homestand, they are 100% in must-win territory. That’s pressure.

THREE-DOT DASH

Get a load of the White Sox taking two out of three in Atlanta against the best team in baseball. Maybe instead of being an exercise in futility, this nine-game road trip — to the Mets and Twins from here — will be the thing that turns the Sox’ season around.

Wait, you didn’t think that was serious, did you? …

Has Lucas Giolito been traded to the Dodgers yet? Los Angeles is the right-hander’s neck of the woods, and the Dodgers — beset by injuries to their rotation — need him. It makes too much sense not to happen. …

Big sweep by the Brewers in Cincinnati, moving them from a game in back of the Reds to two games in front. That’s how a division winner does it. …

But did you see Reds third baseman Elly De La Cruz’s latest eye-popping display? He unleashed a 97.9 mph throw Sunday, the fastest tracked infield assist of the Statcast era (starting in 2015). De La Cruz threw one 99.2 mph in Triple-A this year. …

Speaking of the absurdly talented: NBA superstar Steph Curry had a hole-in-one Saturday on a 152-yard par-3 at the American Century Championship celebrity tournament at Lake Tahoe. It set off a wild celebration, with Curry practically sprinting from the tee to the hole and firing his mouthpiece into the gallery. OK, so the mouthpiece part didn’t happen, but Curry did win the tournament with an eagle on 18. …

And speaking of great shooters, the Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu made 25 of 27 shots in the final round of the WNBA’s three-point contest during All-Star weekend. Easily the coolest three-point display since Larry Bird held up his No. 1 finger on his winning shot at the Chicago Stadium in 1988.

THIS YOU GOTTA SEE

Nationals at Cubs (7:05 p.m. Monday, Marquee): Without All-Star pitcher Josiah Gray appearing in this series, the Nats are begging to be swept — but the Cubs can’t get three without this first one.

Women’s World Cup: U.S. vs. Vietnam (8 p.m. Friday, Fox-32, Telemundo): The tournament favorites — that would be the Americans, just so we’re clear — get underway in Auckland, New Zealand.

British Open, final round (6 a.m. Sunday, Ch. 5): Rory McIlroy won the Open the last time it was at Royal Liverpool, in 2014, the year he won his last two majors. He’s only 34 and playing well. Why not do it again?

ONLY BECAUSE YOU ASKED

From Glenn, via Facebook: “Can’t Northwestern get one of Ohio State’s or Michigan’s assistant coaches?”

In theory, sure, but whom? Ohio State’s Brian Hartline and Michigan’s Sherrone Moore are rising stars, but each recruits in such deeper waters than Northwestern can that the adjustment might not have much appeal. The Wildcats need someone — probably in 2024 — who’s willing to patiently chip away at making them competitive again while not keeping one eye out for his next opportunity. With all the upheaval and uncertainty in Evanston, it will be a monumental task for any coach. Is there someone out there with a track record who wants this? Taking a flier on a lower-rung staffer at a powerhouse program probably isn’t the move.

THE BOTTOM FIVE

Bad official scoring: Steele’s ERA climbed from 2.56 to 2.96 thanks to a terrible ruling of a hit on a fifth-inning bouncer to Hoerner that the shortstop just plain misplayed. It’s on Steele for giving up a two-out grand slam to Masataka Yoshida, but those four runs should have been unearned.

Tennis: The Wimbledon men’s final supposedly was a pretty good one, but it took Carlos Alcaraz four hours and 42 minutes to beat Novak Djokovic. It might be time to look into implementing a pitch clock or at least a ghost runner during the fifth set.

LeBron James: The Lakers superstar is changing his number from 6 back to 23. Unfortunately, he’s also changing his age from 38 to 39 in December.

Eloy Jimenez: The oft-injured slugger left Sunday’s game with what the Sox termed “left groin tightness.” Or as Sox fans call it, “an Eloy Jimenez.”

Northwestern: Suffice it to say, Jimi Hendrix did the “Purple Haze” thing much better.

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