Splitting a series with the league-worst San Diego Padres to cap a homestand certainly left a bad taste in the mouths of their antithesis, the Chicago Cubs.
When you boast a National League-leading 64 victories, you’re supposed to manhandle teams like the San Diego Padres. Someone forgot to pass that memo along to Joe Maddon‘s Chicago Cubs.
Despite a late comeback, the Cubs dropped Sunday’s series finale by a 10-6 margin. Over the course of the four-game series, the Padres outscored Chicago by a 24-17 clip – a mark that is admittedly boosted by that finale offensive outburst. Still, this weekend could have gone better – and that’s putting it mildly.
Perhaps most startling are the continued struggles of ace Jon Lester. After punching his ticket to a fifth career Midsummer Classic, the lefty has hit a wall of late. According to MLB.com, Lester is 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA in his last four outings.
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"“It’s a Wrigley day, and you’ve got to deal with it. … It didn’t seem to affect their guy too much, but at the end of the day, I have to do a better job of keeping our team close enough to strike and minimize some damage,” Lester said. “I wasn’t able to do that.”"
In the first two frames, the Padres hung four runs on Lester – and a combined five more tallies in the eighth and ninth put this one out of reach. Playing catchup never leaves you with a great feeling – nor when your staff ace stumbles again.
Getting back to the basics
Of course, Chicago has seen its share of inconsistencies this year both on the mound and at the dish. It comes down to doing the little things – and the Cubs failed to execute with any degree of regularity this weekend.
"“There’s no questioning the fight, the esprit de corps, the fight — it’s all wonderful, everything’s good,” Maddon said after the loss. “But I’m kind of a fundamentalist, and I just want to make sure we are staying aware of [the fundamentals].”"
Now, Maddon’s club turns its attention to a series on the road against the Kansas City Royals. The one bright spot right now? Javier Baez, who set a new career-high with his 24th home run of the year on Sunday. He seems a near-lock to crack 100 RBI for the first time in his career, as well – as he eyes a shot at National League MVP honors.
The Royals offer a similar matchup as the Padres – so let’s hope it goes a bit more in the Cubs’ favor. Kansas City enters the work week at a dismal 34-77, which marks the second-worst record in baseball.
This series will come down to execution. If the Cubs can re-focus on the details and execute, there’s no reason they can’t come home at the end of the week with a series sweep under their belt. But, if this weekend taught us anything, it’s that you can’t take anything for granted.