‘Good starting point’: Cubs’ Ian Happ finding rhythm at the plate

Happ homered in his first at-bat Monday against the Brewers.

SHARE ‘Good starting point’: Cubs’ Ian Happ finding rhythm at the plate
Ian Happ #8 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates with teammates in the dugout after coming around to score on a two run RBI double by Cody Bellinger #24 (not pictured) in the ninth inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 27, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Ian Happ #8 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates with teammates in the dugout after coming around to score on a two run RBI double by Cody Bellinger #24 (not pictured) in the ninth inning during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on August 27, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Getty

Cubs left fielder Ian Happ didn’t sugarcoat his self-evaluation over the weekend in Pittsburgh.

“It comes and goes,” he said when asked if he has been locked in at the plate lately. “I’ve had some good at-bats, I’ve hit some balls hard right at people — there’s been a lot of that. A little bit frustrating. I’m not getting on base as much as I want in the last few weeks. Been walking a lot before that, so that’s normalized a little bit.”

In four games in Pittsburgh, however, he went 5-for-16 (.313) with two doubles, a home run and five RBI.

Then, he hit a solo home run in his first at-bat Monday in a 6-2 loss to the Brewers.

“Just having better at-bats, feeling better controlling the strike zone a little bit,” Happ said. “And it’s a good starting point.”

Happ has been able to settle in with the consistency of batting third every game. And manager David Ross’ lineup decisions reveal something about his approach to player management.

Ross has leveraged rest days to help players, including Christopher Morel and Seiya Suzuki, out of ruts. But Happ hasn’t looked as lost at the plate as Suzuki did when Ross put him in a temporary platoon earlier this month. Suzuki has been on a hot streak since reclaiming his everyday role.

Ross also knows how much Happ, a former utility player, values consistency in his position and spot in the batting order. Happ leads the team in games, making his 128th appearance Monday. So, even though Happ is batting .241, Ross has penciled his name into the three-hole 103 times.

“He’s as consistent of an at-bat as I think we have on our team,” Ross said. “And I mean that in a fact of, when he’s scuffling, when he’s going well, when he’s hitting for power, when he’s getting on base, you don’t see a change in the consistent consistency in the at-bat.”

Ross also spoke highly of Happ’s veteran presence and ability to get on base in front of Cody Bellinger, the Cubs’ best hitter this season. Bellinger has 53 RBI in his last 51 games.

Ross pointed out that the Cubs have scored the most runs (254) in the league since the All-Star break.

“There’s a lot of things that you can look at from a lineup standpoint,” Ross said. “But since we’ve been going well, Ian’s been in the three-hole. . . . Why would I mess with that?”

Stroman evaluation

Starter Marcus Stroman was in Chicago on Monday for medical evaluation. He has been at his home in Tampa, Florida, recovering from broken rib cartilage. He was diagnosed with the injury two weeks ago, days before he was set to return from the 15-day injured list (right hip inflammation). The Cubs want Stroman to be symptom-free before he resumes baseball activities.

Injury update

Cubs left-hander Brandon Hughes threw a live batting practice session at the Cubs’ spring-training complex Monday, representing the next step in his throwing progression.

Hughes underwent a surgical debridement on his left knee in late June. The cleanup procedure was much less serious than the knee surgery originally planned for the reliever.

The Latest
Some Democrats issued statements of strong support for the vice president, others stayed mum, for now — with just weeks to go before the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Chicago on Aug. 19.
The band is now making money on the road, a turn that vocalist Katie Gavin calls ‘a game-changer.’
Thorpe lowers ERA to 3.03 in fifth straight start with 2 or fewer runs allowed.
A 50-year-old woman was treated at the scene for minor injuries in the 5100 block of South Loomis Street.