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Chicago Cubs need resurgent defense to continue improving

Apr 13, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. (5) makes a catch during the first inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 13, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. (5) makes a catch during the first inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /
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In Monday night’s loss to San Francisco, the Chicago Cubs’ defense put up a strong performance, lending hope that a turnaround is at-hand

It’s no secret how good the Chicago Cubs’ defense performed last season. Without it, the starting rotation doesn’t put up career-best numbers, the club doesn’t win 103 regular season games and may not win a World Series.

Anchored by young veteran and Platinum Glove winner Anthony Rizzo, the infield turned highlight reel plays on a near-daily basis. Javier Baez and his lightning-quick tags captured the attention of fans across the globe. Despite struggling offensively, Jason Heyward showed why he’s one of the best outfielders in all of baseball.

This season, however, the team looks different.

Chicago enters play still flirting with .500, not running away with things like last year. The defense ranks dead-last in the entire National League with 37 errors. That’s the second-highest total in all of Major League Baseball.

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Starting pitchers need support

It’s no coincidence the Cubs’ starting rotation ranks near the middle of the pack in terms of earned run average. At 4.45, the team clearly needs more from the rotation, namely guys like John Lackey and Jake Arrieta.

But the blame can’t fall squarely on the pitching staff. With starters on the mound, the Chicago defense has allowed 17 unearned runs – a number hardly likely to inspire confidence from their teammates.

Although Lackey struggled Monday, it wasn’t due to his defense letting him down. Almora made a leaping catch in center field and Russell, in the same inning, showed off defensive skills that would make anyone envious.

And when the Cubs play like that, Joe Maddon has little to complain about.

"“If we keep playing that game, it’ll make me a happy person. I thought we played really well. We had really good at-bats, played our defense. That’s what I’m looking for, more of that. When you lose a game like that, my thought has been if we keep playing like that, we’ll win plenty.”"

Next: Cubs will go up and down - just accept that fact

The Chicago skipper has a point. No one will dispute the team’s sluggish start coming off a title. But if this team gets back to playing fundamental baseball, especially on the defensive side, a winning streak could very well be in the cards.

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