The 2017 season is still young, and the Chicago Cubs certainly know how to win.
A combination of failing to produce with runners on base along with bullpen meltdowns has resulted in the team’s first four-game losing streak at Wrigley Field since May 2014 — and that streak spanned two homestands, with losses May 4 to the Cardinals and May 5-6 to the White Sox, then another loss May 16 to the Brewers after a road trip. The last time, before now, that any Cubs team lost four straight on a single homestand was August 1-4, 2013, when they got swept in a four-game series by the Dodgers.
I’m sure no one wants to go back to those bad old days.
The Cubs lost to the Brewers 6-3 on a chilly night at Wrigley and again, as had been the case for the other three losses in this streak, wasted opportunities and failure by the bullpen helped lead to the defeat, which put the team under .500 for the second time this season.
It didn’t help, either, that John Lackey had another bad first inning. So far this year, Lackey has a 15.00 ERA in the first inning (five earned runs in three innings), and a 1.80 ERA after that (three earned runs in 15 innings). I’m not sure what it is about Lackey and the first inning, but that’s going to have to be fixed. Ryan Braun, who got booed loudly every time he came to the plate Monday evening, homered in that first inning to give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead.
The Cubs got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning thanks in part to a perfectly placed bunt by Kyle Schwarber The ball rolled right down the foul line and hit third base.
Beat the shift. pic.twitter.com/eqJXIOr1bI— MLB (@MLB) April 18, 2017
Kyle advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on Ben Zobrist’s single.
But Lackey got touched for another homer in the second, this one by Jett Bandy.
The Cubs, though, put together a three-hit second, highlighted by a two-run double from Albert Almora Jr. [VIDEO], to tie the game.
But Lackey wasn’t done giving up long balls, despite the wind blowing in off Lake Michigan. Eric Thames, who leads the major leagues in home runs, hit his seventh to give the Brewers a 4-3 lead.
This is when the Cubs started messing up scoring chances. They had runners on first and second with one out in the third — nothing doing. Anthony Rizzo channeled Schwarber in the fifth by bunting his way on with one out. Then he stole second base.
Unfortunately, Rizzo strayed a bit too far off second base and got picked off [VIDEO].
Overall the Cubs went 2-for-12 with RISP. They have to do better.
Then it was the bullpen’s turn to try to keep the game close, and Mike Montgomery failed. Thames and Braun led off the eighth off Montgomery with hits, both hit hard; Braun’s double scored Thames and when he took off for third, Willson Contreras’ throw went awry and Braun scored the sixth Milwaukee run.
The Cubs had a shot in the ninth when pinch-hitter Jon Jay led off with a single and Contreras walked, bringing Almora to the plate representing the tying run. But A.A. hit into a double play and Schwarber struck out on a 97 mile per hour fastball from Neftali Feliz to end it.
Panic? No. Concern? Yes. The Cubs reinstated Carl Edwards Jr. from the bereavement list before Monday’s game and placed Tommy La Stella on that same list, giving them, for the time being, eight relief pitchers. They used an eight-man pen for most of last year and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Joe Maddon want to go with that now, especially with the troubles the pen has had.
Before the game the Cubs had a brief ceremony honoring Jason Hammel, Jorge Soler and Travis Wood, three members of the 2016 World Series champions all now playing for the Kansas City Royals. The highlight video below was shown on the video board prior to the ring ceremony:
Forever champs. pic.twitter.com/NHFybdesdx— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 18, 2017
The 2017 Cubs are going to have to play better if they want to have more of these ceremonies next year.
They’ll try to snap their losing streak Tuesday evening. The wind should be blowing out again. Brett Anderson will go for the Cubs and Jimmy Nelson for the Brewers.