Continuing a recent troubling trend, the Chicago Cubs once again failed to come up with big hits when needed – sealing their fate against the rival Cardinals.
Ahead of Sunday’s series finale, one of our writers here at Cubbies broke down how the offense, not the bullpen, was the more pressing concern – at least right now. Sure enough, the Chicago Cubs mustered all of one tally against Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals for their eighth loss in their last 10 contests.
But first, the positives. Well, really, the one positive. Cole Hamels, who hadn’t really been pitching up to his usual level in recent weeks, twirled an absolute gem. The veteran lefty turned in seven innings, allowing just one unearned run on the afternoon. He hadn’t pitched this deep into a ballgame since May 11, lasting just four innings in each of his last two starts.
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According to Tony Andracki of NBC Sports Chicago, Hamels was coming off his worst month as a Cub (5.19 ERA) – so Sunday’s outing feels particularly good even given the circumstances.
Given how poorly the offense has been performing of late, getting an outing like this was almost a must for Chicago to have any shot at avoiding the series sweep. But unfortunately, Wainwright turned back the clock in a big way – throwing a gritty 126 pitches over eight innings of shutout ball, outdueling Hamels.
The Cubs worked Wainwright into a lot of deep counts. Chicago drew eight walks on the afternoon, but once again went hitless with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-4 and leaving seven men stranded. All told, in the three-game series, the offense went a staggering 1-for-16 (.062) with runners in scoring position.
As a team, Joe Maddon‘s squad mustered a measly three knocks in the loss – which drops them 1 1/2 games back of first-place Milwaukee, who won on Sunday against the pirates. Just three games separate Milwaukee, Chicago and St. Louis with the Brewers winning their last two and the Cardinals winning four consecutive contests heading into the new week.
This weekend didn’t go the way we’d hoped – that’s putting things mildly. But the Cubs will return home on Monday to make up a rainout from April against the Los Angeles Angels before welcoming the Colorado Rockies to town Tuesday. That kicks off a seven-game homestand that, you guessed it, sees these same Cardinals square off against Chicago at Wrigley next weekend.
If you’re looking for some type of positive right now, I’ll offer you this. We knew the National League Central would be one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Maybe not the best, but definitely one of the most competitive.
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Each of the top three clubs has already seen their share of rough stretches – and are now once again clustered together. That’s not going to change as we head into the summer months. There are going to be ups and downs and everything in between in the weeks and months to come. St. Louis and Chicago have now traded sweeps this season, and this rivalry is just getting started with 10 games left between these squads. Buckle up.