Chicago Cubs: Offense dead silent as Tyler Chatwood flirts with disaster

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs managed just two base hits in a 2-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds as frustrations continue to mount with fans – despite being just five games in.

For the second time in as many days, the Chicago Cubs offense failed to tally a run. Rookie starter Tyler Mahle limited Chicago to just one base hit – a Javier Baez triple in the second – and the team went from the fourth to the seventh without having a man reach base.

In both of those innings, Kyle Schwarber drew walks – but that pretty much summed up the Chicago offense on Monday. In the top of the eighth, the Cubs came within a base hit – or a walk – of tying the game, but Anthony Rizzo chased a pitch out of the zone, striking out to end the inning.

A ‘good’ outing from Chatwood

Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood‘s line looks pretty good. One run allowed over six innings of work in his debut. But if you dig deeper, it’s a vastly different story. The right-hander walked six batters on the afternoon and constantly worked in and out of trouble.

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On two separate occasions, Chatwood walked the two batters preceding Joey Votto. While it never came back to haunt him, that’s playing with fire in the deepest sense of the phrase. All-in, though, he came through when it mattered. With his back against the wall, the Chicago hurler always delivered, keeping his team in the game.

Cubs pitching limited Cincinnati to a 1-for-10 mark with runners in scoring position. The game’s only tally came on an RBI groundout off the bat of Adam Duvall in the bottom of the fourth. Chicago, meanwhile, went 0-for-4 in such situations. The fact they had just four of these instances tells you about how well this went.

Offensive woes continue

Through five games, Cubs hitters have struck out 58 times – the most ever for a National League team. Of course, a 10 and 17-inning game in there doesn’t help matters, but it’s still a harrowing number for this team.

So, now, we’re talking about an offense that is scoreless in its last two games. Oh, and don’t forget. In that 17-inning marathon, the Cubs managed just one run. That comes out to one run across 35 innings. Hardly what you’d call awe-inspiring.

Ian Happ picked up his first hit since his Opening Day home run in the eighth, but still carries a .190 average on the year. Javier Baez also added a hit, but is hitting .111. Schwarber, meanwhile, boasts a team-leading 1.165 OPS after drawing two walks today.

I will grant the bats this one disclaimer.

In other words, they’ve hit the ball hard – and come up empty. But when you fail to put a young pitcher on the ropes when you have two men on and one out in the first inning, you’re failing to execute.

A left-hander on the rise

The bullpen added to its ever-improving resume with Justin Wilson and Pedro Strop tossing scoreless innings on Monday. Wilson struck out two and did not walk a batter while Strop finished off the eighth.

We talked about Wilson’s importance to this team this spring – and it’s played out in just such a fashion. He represents the Cubs’ biggest upside lefty in the pen. And, really, the only impact southpaw at Joe Maddon‘s disposal.

Fourteen of his 17 pitches went for strikes – capping the frame with a strikeout of Votto.

Next: On paper, Cubs favored over Reds - but will it matter?

What to look for

Simple. Do the Cubs score?

At this point, that’s what it comes down to. This offense has too much firepower to be held scoreless for 18 innings and to be at 2-3 after five games against Cincinnati and Miami. The pitching (for the most part) has held up its end of the bargain. Now, it’s time for the bats to do their job.