It’s been a strange season for the Chicago Cubs. Players we didn’t expect as much from are coming through. Kyle Hendricks finds himself on the opposite end of that spectrum, struggling to start the year.
Before the season started, if I were to tell you that the Chicago Cubs‘ Kyle Hendricks would be 1-4 at this point, how many would have believed me? I wouldn’t have. But that’s where he is. Coming off of his strongest start of the season against these same Diamondbacks, he couldn’t repeat the performance. The Diamondbacks made adjustments and chased Hendricks from the game after five innings.
The Cubs fell back to .500 at 12-12. But the bigger concern is Hendricks. This isn’t the first time he’s started the season like this. And eventually, he gets a feel for the change and settles in. But that changeup is getting abused by hitters, and he isn’t going to overwhelm anyone with his fastball. Just like the first week and a half of the season, it can get better. But the Cubs are going to need Hendricks this season.
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While the Cubs took an 8-3 loss at the hands of Arizona, there were some promising signs, especially from the offense. As a whole, it hasn’t been an issue. But seeing Kris Bryant have better at-bats, including his home run, might help him get off the mat.
Albert Almora went 4-for-5 from the leadoff spot, as maybe he’s starting to make some adjustments at the plate that could help him jumpstart his offense.
Anthony Rizzo continues to struggle, as he went 0-for-4 and saw his average dip below .200 at .198. We saw this last season, and he was able to bounce back and have a great season.
Slow starts seem to have become his modus operandi, but someone in the middle of the order needs to drive in runs. It’s either coming from the very top in Almora and Daniel Descalso or towards the bottom in Willson Contreras and Jason Heyward.
Javier Baez just continues to be Baez. Two more hits, including a 446-foot bomb to left field. If you’re unsure of how he knew it was gone? Watch the left fielder.
Even with this, the Cubs are going to need more than Baez. Last season, many of us–including myself–talked about how well we did with what we were missing. Right now, Rizzo, Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ben Zobrist are no-shows on the offense.
The starters, except for Hendricks and maybe Yu Darvish have come around. The bullpen is stable, but it still feels like it’s on life support. Randy Rosario was sent down, and Dillon Maples gets another shot.
Maples talent is only overshadowed by his occasional inability to throw strikes. Much like Tyler Chatwood last year. Don’t look now, but Chatwood has had a strong start and been an essential piece of this pen. Did I REALLY say that? I did. He did walk two last night in his one inning, but no other damage.
Cubs’ fans will be on the edge of their seats again tonight as Darvish goes to the mound. I’ve mentioned I’ve seen improvement in several of his starts. But it’s time to turn those into results. Darvish can’t count on the offense to score four to five runs for him every time out.
The talk this year was how competitive the Central was going to be this year. And it has been. Only four games separate the top from the bottom. At 12-12, the Cubs need to figure things out here, and soon. They are sitting in the middle with two ways to go. Which one will it be?