Joe Maddon defends struggling Cubs’ effort

The Cubs have been struggling in a variety of ways, but those struggles aren’t for lack of effort, manager Joe Maddon said.

‘‘We do care,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘We’re just not hitting.

‘‘I don’t have any strong explanations for it. A lot of guys are really struggling badly at the same time. They’re the same guys that we rode to the World Series last year, and they’re very good young players.

‘‘It’s just not working right now. Moments like this, you have to stay consistent in your approach with them and keep working. You know it’s going to come back.’’

Maddon said he didn’t think the Cubs played poorly in their 9-1 loss Saturday to the Rockies. He said they got a bit unlucky in the ninth inning, when a hard grounder bounced off the foot of reliever Pedro Strop. The play opened the door to a five-run outburst and turned a 4-1 deficit into a 9-1 hole.

Third baseman Kris Bryant echoed Maddon’s sentiments about the Cubs’ effort.

‘‘Something that makes me proud watching everybody here play is that everybody cares,’’ Bryant said. ‘‘You’ll hear the occasional helmet toss or bat break in the tunnel because everybody cares. Everybody wants to do good, and you don’t want to let your team down. We’re definitely not lacking in that category.’’

Russell returns to lineup

Shortstop Addison Russell was back in the Cubs’ starting lineup, batting eighth.

The start was Russell’s first since Major League Baseball opened a domestic-violence investigation into an allegation involving Russell.

‘‘You’ve just got to throw him back out there and try to have him work through the whole thing,’’ Maddon said.

Russell’s poor performance on the field continued, though. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and struggled on defense before Maddon pinch-hit for him with two runners on base in the seventh.

‘‘Addison looked a little off, even on defense,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘His whole game was off just a click.

‘‘I normally wouldn’t pinch-hit for him right there. But based on what I’m seeing, [I’m] trying to ease him back into the flow of things. Just still off a little bit, but we’re going to put him right back out there [Sunday].’’

Cubs recall Pena

The Cubs recalled right-hander Felix Pena from Class AAA Iowa and optioned right-hander Seth Frankoff to Iowa.

Pena allowed one hit in a scoreless eighth, then came back out for the ninth and yielded a hit and two walks to start the five-run inning Strop finished.

Pena joined the Cubs for the third time this season. He posted a 3.38 ERA in four relief appearances in his earlier stints.

Frankoff made his major-league debut Friday, allowing two runs and four hits and striking out two in two innings.

Follow me on Twitter @davidjustCST.


Cubs’ hitting woes continue in 9-1 loss to Rockies

How the Cubs — through 60 games — hold up to playoff teams past