Usually when a player like Kris Bryant goes 1-for-8 with four strikeouts it’s a pretty bad sign for the Cubs. Not only does that mean the game went long, but it likely wasn’t too good for the rest of the batters in the lineup.
That kind of stat is not supposed end with Chicago racking up a 7-1 victory over the Mets in 14 innings during which the North Siders had 32 runners left on base.
After all, what is anyone supposed to take away from a game in which the winning team struck out 24 times but racked up 17 hits?
As much as this is about the Mets inability to support their pitchers, the wasted opportunities for Chicago are much more troublesome.
Mets pitchers' 24 strikeouts last night were tied for the fifth-most in a game in MLB history since 1908. The Dodgers, Yankees, Angels and A's have all struck out 26 batters in a game, with two such instances occurring last year.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) June 3, 2018
Twice in the first inning the Cubs struck out with the bases loaded. After putting together a few singles to start the game, Chicago didn’t even get another hit until the sixth frame, when another three straight singles gave it a 1-0 lead. It seemed like the Cubs were ready to break the game open. They even loaded the bases again that inning — only to strike out twice more in that situation. The same thing happened in the 10th inning when Ian Happ went down swinging for the third out.
The final tally is concerning for Cubs fans: Chicago struck out five times with the bases loaded. Four came against deGrom — the Mets’ best arm at the moment.
All it took for the Cubs to finally convert with runners in scoring position after the sixth inning was for the Mets to cycle through eight pitchers en route to another head-scratching loss.
This is not to say things are all bad for Chicago. At only three games behind the Brewers for the National League Central lead, there is plenty of time and space to correct these issues. But the issues are concerning nonetheless.
The Cubs are in the bottom third of Major League Baseball in batting average with runners in scoring position at a paltry .238. In the same scenario with two outs that mark drops to .206 — putting them at 23rd in MLB. That Chicago has a top-four slash line in baseball in overall (.267/.349/.437) definitely provides optimism — and certainly you can’t expect Bryant to go 1-for-8 too often.
But Saturday’s struggles to convert with runners in scoring position didn’t spare even the Cubs most notable names. Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, Albert Almora, Addison Russell and Ian Happ all struck out with the bases loaded. And while even the best hitters get out-dueled by the game’s best pitchers, striking out 11 times in seven innings against guys not named deGrom (7 IP, 13 K, 7 H, 1 ER) isn’t encouraging.
It’ll be interesting to see how manager Joe Maddon tampers with the lineup over the next few weeks to try to find more balance. Certainly the status quo won’t cut it when the Cubs are trying to make another run in the postseason.
Sure, it’s only June. But the Cubs are well past the wait-and-see approach. Now is the time to address these issues, not when you’re looking to load up for the postseason.
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