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Chicago Cubs: Clutch hitting gets Cubs back to .500 again

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Jun 16, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward (22) is greeted crossing home plate to score by Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (middle) and second baseman Tommy LaStella (right) against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the ninth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 16, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Cubs right fielder Jason Heyward (22) is greeted crossing home plate to score by Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (middle) and second baseman Tommy LaStella (right) against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the ninth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Clutch hitting has been a problem for the Chicago Cubs, but tonight, it led them to victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Chicago Cubs have not been themselves this season. Even with a 9-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, the Cubs are just .500 through 66 games.

A portion of the Cubs’ struggles in 2017 can be traced to the starting rotation. The Cubs have used seven starting pitchers this season. That group has an ERA of 4.69 and a combined WAR of just 4.2.

Despite the shortcomings of the rotation, not all of the Cubs’ problems can be pinned to those seven individuals. Instead, the lack of clutch hitting and leaving men on base have been huge issues for the North Siders.

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Coming into Friday’s game, the Cubs owned the National League’s lowest batting average with runners in scoring position with a .221 mark. With runners on base, the story gets slightly better, but not by much. Through their first 65 games, the Cubs are hitting at a .229 clip with men on base.

Can one game turn it all around?

Even with lackluster numbers, the Cubs’ offense jumped out to a quick start on Friday. The Cubs scored three times in the first, with two runs coming on a Willson Contreras double.

Despite that early outburst, the Cubs’ bats fell silent like they have so many times this season. Not until the ninth inning did the Cubs come back to life. Trailing 4-3, the Cubs rallied for six runs in the frame, led by multiple clutch hits.

The first such clutch hit came when Jason Heyward doubled to lead off the inning. Breaking the tradition of leaving men on, Contreras followed with a double of his own, scoring Heyward.

Three batters later, Jon Jay stepped to the plate and singled home Contreras, giving the Cubs the lead.

At this point in the inning, the Cubs were 3-for-3 with runners in scoring position, and it would not stop there. Anthony Rizzo followed Jay with a two-run single, pushing the Cubs to a perfect 4-for-4 in the inning.

In all, the Cubs collected five hits with runners in scoring position in the ninth inning alone.

Many Cubs fans hope Friday’s game will go a long way in turning the Cubs’ season around, or at least in jump-starting the offense. However, the Cubs have had big offensive games before, just to go cold for three or four games following the offensive outburst.

More clutch hitting is needed

The Cubs can not continue to hit .221 with runners in scoring position if they hope to make the postseason.

With the exceptions of Dexter Fowler and a few others, this line-up is practically the same as it was last year. In fact, this year’s offense should be better with the return of Kyle Schwarber. Through the first 66 games, that has not been the case.

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Last year’s World Series champions hit .252 with runners in scoring position, and .261 with runners on base. If the Cubs hope to regain the same success last year’s team enjoyed, they need to start hitting with runners in scoring position. Hopefully, this game will serve as a turning point in the season, and spark a run that propels the Cubs into the postseason.

It is still a little soon to worry Cubs’ fans; remember #WeAreGood.

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