Chicago Cubs: Situational hitting looms large in finale loss to Miami

(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs struggled to deliver clutch hits in a Sunday’s series finale loss to the Miami Marlins – while one big inning doomed Jose Quintana.

As the season dawned, the Chicago Cubs seemed to have a good shot at starting 4-0. A date with the Miami Marlins to open the regular season could bode well after the club’s offseason fire sale. Instead, a team with World Series aspirations heads to Cincinnati with a series split under their belt.

Chicago (2-2) had chance after chance in the early innings to put runs on the board – but repeatedly failed to deliver the needed knock. Cubs hitters went just 1-for-9 (.111) with runners in scoring position – leaving 10 on base in the process.

Jose Quintana (0-1, 9.00) got things started on a good note, tossing four no-hit innings to open the afternoon. But in the fifth, the wheels came off for the lefty. A pair of RBI singles and a bases-clearing RBI double from Brian Anderson sent the Cubs back to bat in the sixth trailing 5-0.

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Really, the story of the day is simple. When you don’t capitalize with men on, it will, at some point, come back and haunt you. This game could have felt much different if the Cubs had already put a couple runs on the board when Miami (2-2) went off for five tallies in the fifth. Instead, after the Marlins added a run in the sixth, a 6-0 deficit seemed near insurmountable – even with this talented lineup.

The bad

The bad, again, is pretty easy to identify. The Cubs offense struggled mightily with their clutch hitting throughout the series. As a team, Chicago went 6-for-47 with runners in scoring position in the series. That comes out to a .128 average.

When you put up numbers like that, you’re lucky to split a four-game set. Javier Baez made a boneheaded play with an attempt for a bunt base hit early in the game (with Quintana) on deck, which wound up as an easy out at the plate.

The Chicago infielder is just 1-for-15 out of the gate – and with Zobrist looking good, this could be something interesting in the next week or so.

The good

Kyle Schwarber added a single and a double (the only Cubs player with more than one hit) and leaves Miami with a pair of homers and a .333 average. While his defense wasn’t exactly impressive early in the series, his offense through an admittedly small four-game sample size is promising.

Brian Duensing kept things rolling for the bullpen, turning in two scoreless frames in relief of Quintana. The relief corps, as a whole, was simply stunning this weekend. Expecting such a performance on a day-in, day-out basis isn’t wise, but you really have to tip your cap to the relievers after the body of work they turned in.

Next: Lester doesn't need to be an ace for Chicago

What to keep an eye on

Keep an eye on what the Chicago lineup looks like in Cincinnati this week. It wouldn’t shock me to see Zobrist getting more at-bats. Who will play in center – Albert Almora or Ian Happ? We all thought the lineup was pretty clear. But after how the team hit in Miami, expect some shake-ups from Joe Maddon this week.