Cubs keep it simple in dinger-free offensive explosion

NBC Sports Chicago
<p>The Cubs banged out 20 hits on Saturday but didn't hit a home run, showing how effective a "simple" approach at the plate can be for this skilled lineup. </p>

Cubs keep it simple in dinger-free offensive explosion

The Cubs banged out 20 hits on Saturday but didn't hit a home run, showing how effective a "simple" approach at the plate can be for this skilled lineup.

At the halfway point of the 2018 season, no team with a record over .500 has hit fewer home runs than the Cubs (88), and less than 12 percent of this team's fly balls have gone out of the park (ranking them in the bottom third of the majors). 

Maybe the Cubs have a home run problem. Or maybe they don't. A 14-9 win Saturday over the Minnesota Twins, in which the Cubs banged out 20 hits but didn't sock a single dinger, is a point in favor of the Cubs' offense being fine in the long-term without a barrage of home runs. 

"It's pretty cool, man," outfielder Albert Almora said. "It shows how many good hitters we have and the type of team that we're playing with right now. I don't know - chicks dig the long ball, but sometimes it's good to be simple."

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Making the Cubs' feat even more impressive was that the ball was jumping on Saturday, with the heat index on Clark and Addison rocketing into the 100s. Plenty of balls hit by both teams carried to the warning track, while three weeks ago - when a bank of fog rolled over Wrigley Field and the temperature didn't crack 60 degrees - those would've all been routine flyouts. The Cubs hit four home runs in similarly-hot conditions on Friday; on Saturday, 17 of their 20 hits were singles, with the other three being doubles. 

The Cubs combined to go 11 for 22 with runners in scoring position, and the parade of singles was the result of this lineup taking the simple approach mentioned by a number of players. 

"It's a good thing," outfielder Jason Heyward, who notched his third four-hit game of June, said. "Keep it simple, good signs of taking what we're given. Going up there, trying to have good at-bats where we keep it simple. … Nobody's trying to be a hero. Just trying to, if you get a pitch to hit to get one, if not, try and do your best to lay off and spoil the pitcher's pitches."

The Cubs entered Saturday ranked fifth in baseball in runs scored; tacking on 14 runs at least temporarily vaulted them into third ahead of the New York Yankees. Among National League teams, the Cubs' run production is well ahead of the pack, too. 

The problem, perhaps, is that the scoring is coming in spurts. The Cubs have now scored 35 runs in their last three games; they scored 34 in the nine games before that. This is a team that aims to achieve greater offensive consistency in the second half of the season. 

And while scoring 14 runs is exciting and certainly a positive, the bigger positive the Cubs took away from Saturday was the consistency in the approaches at the plate for every hitter up and down the lineup. 

"We've been talking about our offense and we've been talking about trusting everybody in the lineup and making adjustments," infielder Javier Baez said. "I think everyone here are good, great players, but we gotta make adjustments. It doesn't matter who it is - it can be Barry Bonds, but when he's missing, he needs to make adjustments too. That's what we're doing, and what we're trying to do every day is come to work to get better every day."

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