Cubs ‘balanced’ offense finding different ways to score, win

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Cubs offense 'balanced,' finding different ways to win originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Feast or famine. Home-run-or-bust.

Those are two of the more common ways the Cubs offense has been described in recent years, when they struggled to score on days the long ball was in short supply.

Heck, two weeks into this season, it was famine and bust. But things have changed over the last month, and the Cubs have been one of the best offenses in the game.

“I think we can beat you in a lot of ways,” manager David Ross said following Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Nationals.

This week’s four-game series against Washington is proof of that.

Monday, the Cubs won behind three home runs. Tuesday, a pair of homers made the difference, but 11 of their 13 hits were singles — driving in three runs.

Thursday, it was a mix of both. Ian Happ hit a two-run homer and a solo blast, but the Cubs’ other three runs came on a sac fly and RBI single.

The Cubs offense got off to a terrible start in April. But since April 17, when they broke out for 13 runs against Atlanta, they rank near the top of the game in major offensive categories.

Entering Thursday: 2nd in runs (159), 3rd in average (.267); 2nd in on-base percentage (.344); 1st in slugging percentage (.448); 3rd in wRC+ (118); 7th in walk rate (9.5 percent); 9th in strikeout rate (24.9 percent).

“The whole thing collectively has been really impressive, and I think that everybody feeds off each other in this lineup,” Happ said Thursday. “It's been really nice to see.”

Putting the ball in play has been an issue for the Cubs in recent seasons. It's no coincidence they're 13th in contact rate since April 17, when Matt Duffy and Nico Hoerner became lineup fixtures near the end of that month.

“Duffy, [Eric] Sogard and Nico have given sort of a different aspect to this offense than what we’ve had the last couple of years,” team president Jed Hoyer said pregame Thursday.

“I think that's been really helpful. What's been fun to watch is it's a different style of offense. It’s a little bit less reliant on homers, a bit more reliant on contact and rallies, and that's been great.”

Even with more contact, the Cubs entered Thursday 11th in homers (37) since April 17

Duffy and Hoerner’s contributions have helped the lineup, as has Kris Bryant’s MVP-level performance so far. Anthony Rizzo and Javy Báez have turned things around in recent weeks. Joc Pederson and Ian Happ have hit well since returning from their IL stints.

Pederson is slashing .400/.436/.480 in 13 games since returning.

“Guys are starting to get healthy and in their rhythms,” Ross said. “I’ve got a ton of confidence in these guys. It is a balanced offense.”

Whether it’s sustainable might have as much to do with whether the starters can begin pitching deep into games.

"We’ll have another swoon," Hoyer said. "That's baseball, that's nature, that's natural."

In the meantime, the results have been strong and full of promise.

"Ultimately what we're striving for is a balanced offense that can pass the baton, that can score in many ways," Hoyer said.

"I think this offense has shown a better ability to do that than the last few years."

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