Chicago Cubs News

Chicago Cubs: Swept right out of New York

jfrancis
May 4, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester (middle) talks with the Cubs infield against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The Cubs won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
May 4, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester (middle) talks with the Cubs infield against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The Cubs won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Well, that was not the fireworks we were hoping to see this weekend. With the exception of the first six innings of the first game, the Chicago Cubs were out of sorts.

From the moment Albert Almora Jr. threw to third base on Brandon Nimmo‘s first hit of his career, it was all downhill from there. That throw allowed Nimmo to reach second. The next batter then hit a ground ball to Javier Baez, who choose to throw to third, but missed. Two runs would score. Had Almora Jr. thrown to second, it would have been first and third with one out, and the ball to Baez would have been an easy 6-4-3 double play.

It was not to be that way.

From that moment, Old Uncle Mo (aka momentum) was on the side of the Mets, who outscored the Cubs 32-11 in the four-game sweep. It was not a pretty sight, especially from the mound. The Cubs starters went a total of 17 innings and allowed 24 earned runs. Not the numbers you would expect from the top staff in the MLB according to the numbers.

It is without a doubt that injuries have played a major part in the current Cubs slump. Over the last three weeks, three positions players and two pitchers have made the MLB debuts. Plus, two more current roster members were not on the opening day roster. Needless to say, the depth has been tested to a greater length than expected.

So, what are the takeaways from this series? It is obvious the that Cubs are in need of pitching depth. The starting rotation has been solid up to this point, even with Jake Arrieta coming back to earth. I do not expect the staff to keep the numbers they have all year. But, the bullpen has been taxed of late. If the starters only pitched 17 innings in the series, the pen pitched fifteen. But, it was not the pen that struggled the most. Sure, Joel Peralta was the pitcher of record for the loss in game one, that was not totally on him (see opening paragraph). Also, the Cubs only committed 1 error the entire series, and that was the Baez throw in game one.

What the Cubs really need is stability in the line-up. Dexter Fowler‘s return should help with that. The line-up that as most potent early in the season saw Jason Heyward in the two spot and Ben Zobrist in the five-hole. Should this change? Maybe. Heyward has struggled at the plate. But with Zob getting on base, he is providing extra protection for Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. They drive in runs with singles and doubles, then Ben can drive them in or push them into scoring positions. Station-to-station baseball that puts extra pressure on the pitchers. Proof? Zobrist already has 43 RBI this year, 12 below his career average. He did have seasons of 91 RBI with Tampa Bay in 2009 and 2011, so staying in the five-hole may be best.

The best solution to the problem of who hits second? Addison Russell. Yes, Russell. Hear me out. Addison has been in the back of the line-up behind Montero and Ross and before the pitcher. Because of this, opposing pitchers are not afraid to go after him. And that has worked to the tune of .235 batting average.

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However, Russell also has the fifth best OBP of all Cubs regular starters and is fourth with 42 RBI. Put him behind Folwer, help push him over to second or third, maybe take a walk, and you have more runners on base for KB and Riz. Russell could see some better pitches as well.

It was a rough weekend, but if the past shows us anything, the team that sweeps the regular season does not always win in the playoffs. When healthy, and with a line-up in rhythm, the Cubs are still the team to beat.

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