Cubs are falling victim to the three true outcome offense far too often

The Cubs hit four home runs on Friday – and still lost to the Reds on the road.

Usually, when your ball club hits four home runs in a single game, you’re on the road to victory. But as the Cubs learned in Friday’s opener against Cincinnati, you can counter those efforts pretty effectively when you strike out 14 times in the same contest.

Chicago had a chance to deal a devastating blow to the Reds’ division title hopes heading into the weekend, but failed to put Cincinnati on its heels right out of the gate. Of course, the two teams will meet for a doubleheader on Saturday before concluding the series on Sunday at Great American Ballpark. If Chicago wants to bounce back, the offense has some major adjustments to make.

On Friday, Cubs hitters did not find themselves in a single at-bat with runners in scoring position. Those aforementioned four home runs accounted for two-thirds of the team’s six hits. Three of their five runs came in the ninth – with the other two coming in the top of the first. After that two-run first, David Ross’ club went hitless until Ian Happ laced a one-out single in the eighth.

That’s not a recipe for winning.

To go along with their 14 strikeouts, Chicago walked just twice. Again, that’s just not going to get the job done. What does all this tell us? The Cubs are playing with fire – and unless they start making more contact, making a deep postseason run won’t be in the cards.

I talked earlier this season about how ridiculous slugging percentages buoyed the offense during the team’s torrid start. But that’s leveled off – and this team has lacked consistency in any form since.

The North Siders rank sixth in the NL with 41 home runs, are tied with Atlanta for a league-worst 305 strikeouts and lead all Senior Circuit clubs with 128 walks. That’s the story of this Cubs team just over halfway through the 2020 season – and it’s a story Ross would like to stop hearing about.

“You know the offense is in there,” Ross said. “And I’m tired of saying it, and I think they’re probably tired of hearing it — you want results. That’s the bottom line. Yeah, guys keep continuing to fight.”

The Cubs are seeing a ton of pitches – leading all 30 MLB teams at 4.19 pitches per plate appearance. But what good does seeing all those pitches do if you’re not putting the ball in play? Happ is the only guy who’s been a consistent presence for the team. Pretty much all your key contributors are coming up short, including Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber.

That’s not to mention the injured Kris Bryant, who was mired in the worst season of his big league career before being placed on the 10-day IL this week. His complete lack of production has left a gaping hole in the lineup. Bryant was supposed to be the answer out of the leadoff spot. Instead, he’s given Ross a .177/.271/.323 line with six walks compared to 20 punchouts.

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Friday was just the latest piece of evidence in the case against the Cubs being a legitimate contender. As Ross noted – this team has the talent – but its yet to put it together at the plate. In the second half, we’ll have to see a more contact-oriented approach up and down the lineup or risk  fading out of the postseason picture down the stretch.