I have to keep reminding myself -- and you should too -- that the Cubs are a good team, that they are still 18 games over .500 and in solid position to play in the wild-card game, that many, many good teams go through funks and slumps and losing streaks, and this should and will turn around soon.
Convinced yourself yet?
The Cubs' fourth consecutive loss, 5-2 to the Dodgers Saturday night, had many of the hallmarks of the struggling Cubs of earlier this year. Failure to hit with RISP (0-for-8). Failure to hit at all, in fact -- just six hits, five singles and a double.
Still, they had fashioned a 2-1 lead through six innings, not through very good hitting, though. The two runs scored on a foul sacrifice fly that Carl Crawford might have let drop if it had been in a later inning, and a balk. You don't see many balks these days. There have been just 104 of them in the major leagues this year, an average of a little over three per team (the Cubs have that number, just three), though the Dodgers are among major-league leaders with eight.
Jon Lester was making it hold up through six innings. He hadn't walked anyone and struck out seven and given up just four hits through six. One more solid inning and he could turn things over to the bullpen and...
Somehow, that plan got derailed. Lester gave up hits to the first four batters in the seventh and was removed after three runs had scored. The usually-reliable Justin Grimm came in with the score 4-2 Dodgers and allowed another run before ending the inning.
The Cubs managed to load the bases with one out in the eighth when Dodgers reliever Jim Johnson hit both Kris Bryant and Miguel Montero after Chris Coghlan had singled leading off the frame. You'd have thought the Cubs could get at least one run out of this, but Addison Russell hit into a double play.
Starlin Castro singled as a pinch-hitter to lead off the ninth, but after that Kenley Jansen retired the next three hitters to end it. Jansen has a 2.39 ERA but I don't see how anyone scores off him. He doesn't walk people -- just five in 37⅔ innings -- and he has struck out 65 of the 142 batters he's faced this year, 45.8 percent. (That's a better ratio than Aroldis Chapman, who's at "only" 41.1 percent.)
I had hoped the Cubs could at least split the six games on this road trip. Now they will have to settle for two out of six, which isn't good, but a win Sunday night could right the ship to some extent, and reinforcements are coming:
Expect Javy Baez to be called up when rosters expand Tuesday. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 29, 2015
#Cubs will likely add players in 2 waves -- Tuesday and then when Iowa season ends. Berry and Bonifacio likely Tuesday too— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 29, 2015
I have to believe that Javier Baez is being called up to start at second base. Otherwise why bring him to Chicago before the Iowa season ends? Baez has had a rough year, dealing with the death of his sister and then a hand injury, and has played in only 73 games. He's hit well, .319/.385/.521 with 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases in what amounts to about a half-season's worth of work, and has cut down somewhat on the strikeouts (76 in 288 at-bats, a K in 26.4 percent of his at-bats). There wouldn't seem any point to calling him up Tuesday and having him sit. This offense could use a boost, especially with Jorge Soler out, and perhaps Baez can provide that.
We toss around the pitching term "ace" rather casually these days. Back in the day, to steal a Jim Deshaies phrase, we used to call a starter who could end team losing streaks a "stopper." The Cubs need Jake Arrieta to be that guy tonight, facing the Dodgers' Alex Wood. Remember, today's game is ESPN's Sunday night game and will begin at 7:05 CT. The game preview will post at 5 p.m. CT.
And don't panic. The Cubs have 34 games remaining. There's plenty of time to start winning again.