I could start this recap by blaming Justin Wilson for serving up a home-run ball to Chris Taylor in the eighth inning, giving the Dodgers a second run. That proved to be the difference in the game after the Cubs scored a run in the ninth off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.
But that’s really not fair; sure, Wilson gave up a run, but it was mostly the continued impotence of the Cubs offense that led to yet another loss, 2-1 to the Dodgers, the Cubs’ fifth loss in a row.
Duane Underwood Jr., in his major-league debut, managed a scoreless first inning despite throwing a ridiculous 41 pitches. Included in those 41 pitches was a 14-pitch at-bat by Matt Kemp, in which he fouled off six straight 3-2 pitches before drawing a walk. Underwood walked two and gave up a single in that inning before getting Yasmani Grandal to fly deep to center field to end the inning.
But you know what? Underwood settled down after that. He threw just 36 pitches over the next three innings and allowed only one other hit. Unfortunately, that was a home run by Kiké Hernandez that gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.
Underwood was lifted after four innings. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t have thrown another inning, as he certainly seemed to be cruising. It was that Joe Maddon wanted to see the Cubs generate some offense. Singles by Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ put runners on first and second with nobody out. Chris Gimenez attempted to bunt those runners along. Unfortunately, he popped the bunt straight up and Schwarber, who had to go halfway to be in position to get to third, was easily doubled off second.
So Tommy La Stella was sent up to bat for Underwood, but he grounded out harmlessly to end the inning.
The Dodgers might have scored again in the sixth if not for some tremendous defense [VIDEO] by Schwarber and Javier Baez.
Justin Turner had singled with one out. Cody Bellinger followed by hitting a ball that Schwarber briefly bobbled, but recovered to make a perfect throw to Baez, followed by another perfect throw from Javy to Gimenez to tag Turner out at the plate. If not for the brief bobble, Turner likely gets held at third.
On the game went, and from the fifth through the seventh innings, Randy Rosario and Anthony Bass put up zeroes, three scoreless innings that kept it 1-0.
Unfortunately, Wilson served up that home-run ball to Taylor, who was batting for Dodgers reliever Scott Alexander, to make it 2-0.
Singles by Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo put runners on first and third off Jansen in the ninth, helped in part by a balk by Jansen that advanced Zobrist to second. Zobrist scored on a sac fly by Baez, but Schwarber grounded out to end the game.
Here’s a weird fact that underscores the Cubs’ lack of hitting, which has resulted in only 14 total runs during the five-game losing streak (and six of those in one game):
Dodgers: 10 Different players have homered in June— mike garrigan (@mike_garrigan) June 26, 2018
Cubs: Only 10 different players have homered all season
The Cubs rank tied for 11th in the National League with 79 home runs. That’s a pace for 168 on the season. Last year the Cubs hit 223 home runs and ranked third, just one behind the co-league leaders, the Brewers and Mets. Home runs aren’t everything and the Cubs still rank fourth in the league in runs and third in runs per game, but it would be nice to see some of these Cubs who do have power start to hit with it again.
That particularly applies to Rizzo, who’s on pace to hit 25 home runs, down from his usual 32, and Kris Bryant, who has hit just nine, and only one since May 14.
Bryant has missed the last three games with shoulder issues and that could last another game, at least:
Joe Maddon says Kris Bryant (shoulder) was unavailable Monday at Dodger Stadium and "I wouldn't bet on him playing tomorrow."— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) June 26, 2018
If Bryant does miss Tuesday’s game, that would make four games the Cubs have played essentially with a 24-man roster. At a certain point I think they might just have to DL him and grit out another few games without one of their best hitters.
Props to Underwood for settling down after that first inning. He’ll be sent back to Iowa to continue his development there, and in fact, he could probably be sent back Tuesday and the Cubs could add a reliever until Tyler Chatwood returns from paternity leave.
In the meantime, the Cubs will again try to break the losing streak Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. Jon Lester goes for the Cubs and Ross Stripling will start for the Dodgers. Game time is again 9:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage Wednesday is via WGN.
Site note: Thomas Smith is traveling and so Heroes & Goats will be delayed until late this afternoon.