The Chicago Cubs came within five outs of reaching the World Series last season on the strength of their starting pitching.
This year, however, their starters have been the biggest problem.
Chicago was five outs from its first World Series appearance since 1945 before blowing leads in Games 6 and 7 against Florida, which went on to win the title. In an effort to reach the World Series, the Cubs brought back Maddux, their ace more than a decade ago.
But Prior is on the disabled list with an Achilles’ injury, Clement was roughed up in his first outing of the season, and Maddux fell to 0-2 after losing 13-2 to Pittsburgh in Chicago’s home opener Monday.
Maddux, making his first appearance at Wrigley in a Cubs uniform since Sept. 30, 1992, walked five, hit a batter and gave up eight hits and six runs in 3 2-3 innings.
The Cubs’ offense has also been stagnant, and it produced just three hits Monday. Chicago is batting .227 over its first seven games.
Chicago manager Dusty Baker, however, doesn’t appear worried by his team’s slow start.
“Everybody wants to get off to a good start,” Baker said. ”“I think the off day (Tuesday) is good. Everybody gets to get settled.”
Pittsburgh’s win Monday was its second straight. The Pirates are looking to record three straight victories for the first time since a four-game winning streak from Aug. 26-29.
The Pirates have a 2.51 team ERA, and are batting .294 in their first seven games. Pittsburgh hasn’t been three games above .500 since having a 7-4 mark on April 12 last season.
“I said it in spring training: I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people,” said Pittsburgh outfielder Raul Mondesi, who went 3-for-5 with an RBI on Monday.
The series concludes Thursday with Pittsburgh right-hander Josh Fogg opposing Zambrano.