3 numbers that define the Chicago Cubs’ ugly 2-7 road trip, including the pitching staff’s struggles and Christopher Morel’s hot streak

3 numbers that define the Chicago Cubs’ ugly 2-7 road trip, including the pitching staff’s struggles and Christopher Morel’s hot streak

The Chicago Cubs can only hope a day off and a return home provide a reset.

After a 2-7 trip to Minnesota, Houston and Philadelphia that featured blowouts and demoralizing losses, the Cubs must regroup ahead of a pivotal homestand. They returned to Chicago on Sunday night sitting fourth in the division, one game ahead of the last-place Cincinnati Reds, who come to Wrigley Field this weekend for a three-game series.

“Realistically, we’ve just got to be better,” shortstop Dansby Swanson said after Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Phillies. “If you want to compete in this league consistently, you’ve got to play well and you’ve got to prepare well.

“At the end of the day, we’ve got to be better and we will. We’ve got a lot of great players in here, a lot of great track records. It’s just a matter of coming together at the right time.”

Here are three numbers that define the Cubs’ ugly road trip.

1. The pitching staff’s 7.51 ERA

When it wasn’t someone in the rotation struggling to get through a start, it was the bullpen imploding.

Cubs starters have been a strength most of the season, but there were too many clunkers on the trip. Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele and Jameson Taillon each produced their worst starts of the season. Hayden Wesneski got roughed up, too, in Minnesota before the Cubs optioned him to Triple-A Iowa with two days off ahead and Kyle Hendricks’ return impending during the upcoming homestand.

Only left-hander Drew Smyly tossed two quality starts, posting a 2.25 ERA and .182 average against to continue a great start to his season. The Cubs rotation’s 6.45 ERA on the trip wasn’t what they needed against three quality teams, including the two reigning pennant winners.

And when a starter did position them for a win, the bullpen struggled to lock down the opposing lineup. Cubs relievers combined for a minus-27 run differential. The Twins beat up on the Cubs in particular, scoring the most runs in Target Field history over a three-game span.

If the Cubs are going to weather the offense’s inconsistencies, they need more from their bullpen. They have wasted otherwise strong numbers from the rotation through the first seven weeks.

2. Christopher Morel’s 7 home runs

There are hot streaks in baseball, and then there is the human torch, Christopher Morel.

Since the Cubs recalled Morel from Iowa, the 23-year-old Dominican has slugged eight home runs in his first 11 games of the season — something only three other players have done since 1900. Morel joins Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt (nine, 1976), the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Luis Gonzalez (nine, 2001) and the Reds’ Aristides Aquino (eight, 2019).

Seven of the homers came on the nine-game trip, and Morel’s solo homer in the ninth Sunday prevented them from getting shut out for the first time in 2023. It’s a remarkable feat for Morel, who keeps slugging regardless of where manager David Ross puts him in the lineup.

The Cubs are willing to take the good (offensive firepower) with the bad (shaky defense) when it comes to Morel. Right now his performance at the plate has made up for defensive miscues.

“Christopher is far from a finished product when it comes to plate discipline and what he understands that he can handle,” hitting coach Dustin Kelly said. “We’re never going to take the aggressiveness away from him. You have to live with the swing and miss for him. … As he gets more comfortable, he’s going to get better and better at eliminating pitches.”

3. A .203 average with runners in scoring position

It has became a familiar outcome for the offense.

The Cubs have shown they can get runners on base. But the big hits continue to elude them after the lineup was in sync through the first three weeks.

Ross, Kelly and players keep highlighting the positives of how they are able to get on base. It hasn’t helped turn things around, though, as runs were at a premium in losses in Houston and Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.

The Cubs believe sticking to their overall approach eventually will yield the production they expect. The road trip again represented the precariousness of their run-scoring ability, especially when the margin for error by the pitching staff remains so small.

“We have an old enough and a seasoned enough group to where there hasn’t been any pressure,” Kelly said. “I think they all understand that those moments and those situations come up because we’re a good hitting team. We’re going to have guys on base and they’re going to get those opportunities. They all want those opportunities.

”If they go up there with their plan, they get their pitch to hit and they put the barrel on it, you can’t really control it outside of that. I think there was a little bit of bad luck, but that group in there is so, so veteran that it doesn’t get to them as much.”


Soruce : https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/05/21/3-numbers-that-define-the-chicago-cubs-ugly-2-7-road-trip-including-the-pitching-staffs-struggles-and-christopher-morels-hot-streak/

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