Cubs News: Forget the pitching; the offense will dictate the team’s fate

It's now or never for Javier Baez and the Cubs offense. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
It's now or never for Javier Baez and the Cubs offense. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

With their backs against the wall, the Cubs need their offense to jump to life.

In Game 1, the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins combined to go 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position. Unfortunately, that one hit belonged to Don Mattingly’s club – and they came away with a 5-1 win that puts the North Siders in a must-win situation on Friday.

Kyle Hendricks kept Miami off the board until the seventh, when the Marlins erased the Cubs’ 1-0 deficit by hanging a five-spot on the Chicago starter and reliever Jeremy Jeffress courtesy of a pair of long balls.

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"“Kyle pitched his tail off today,” Anthony Rizzo said after the game. “In the playoffs, runs are usually at a premium, but we’ve got to do a better job and get him more than one.”"

The Cubs offense tallied a whopping four hits in the series opener – two coming from leadoff man Ian Happ, who also accounted for the only Chicago run with his opposite-field solo home run in the bottom of the fifth.

Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Willson Contreras combined to go 1-for-12 with a pair of walks in the loss. That’s really nothing new for the core that cemented their place in Cubs lore by winning a championship back in 2016.

But in recent years, the narrative has swung wildly in the other direction, fueled by a Wild Card Game loss in 2018 and back-to-back September swoons the last two years. Now, one game from being knocked out in the first round, this group has to find a way to get it going in a hurry.

In Game 2, David Ross moved Bryant down to fifth in the order, swapping in Contreras into the third spot in the order behind Happ and Rizzo. Of course, with Yu Darvish on the bump, Victor Caratini will be behind the dish and Contreras will DH.

If the Cubs can stave off elimination, they’ll hand the ball to Jon Lester in Game 3 with the season on the line. The grizzled veteran has epitomized the team’s ascent to annual contender and he’s played an immeasurable role in that rise. But if they want to play deep into October, Lester needs to turn back the clock and reach back for a vintage BDJ performance.

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Pitching aside, the rest of this series – whether it be tomorrow or Saturday- and the rest of the postseason depends on the offense. If this core can’t get it together and do so right away, it may be the last time we ever see them suited up together for the Cubs.