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Pirates 5, Cubs 1: Now you can panic

This team looks awful.

This is about the most positive photo I could find about this game, Javier Baez fielding a ground ball in the sixth inning
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I have watched a lot of bad Cubs baseball in my lifetime. Even if you’re a lot younger than I am, you probably have too.

And that’s why I have almost no words to describe how a lineup of nine starting Cubs, all of whom were significant contributors to their 2016 World Series win could look so absolutely miserable in a 5-1 loss to the Pirates.

Also, would someone please tell me what got into Adam Frazier?

Carlos Gonzalez. Hmm, that name sounds familiar. Wasn’t he just around here a few days ago?

Not that it mattered, anyway.

I guess I have to recap this mess, so here goes. Kyle Hendricks didn’t look too bad in his first start in 18 days, but that darned Adam Frazier led off the first inning with a single and wound up scoring, and the Bucs got another in the third off Hendricks, and then it started raining, like we haven’t had enough of that this year.

It might have been more if not for this nifty play [VIDEO] by Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo.

So, yay?

After the rain stopped, what I didn’t understand is why Tyler Chatwood wasn’t in the game. Wasn’t the whole point of holding him back since last Thursday to make him available to piggyback Hendricks in this game, or start it himself? Four days’ rest off 90 pitches should have been enough, I’d think.

But there Dillon Maples was instead of Chatwood. Maples issued a one-out walk and then after a strikeout, the Pirates sent up pitcher Steven Brault to bat for Francisco Liriano. Now, Brault is a decent hitter but really, you have to get an out there. Brault singled. Mike Montgomery was summoned to face Frazier and of course, there’s no way you’d let Maples face the lefthanded hitting Frazier, right?

Only the thing is, Montgomery is not better against lefthanded hitters, not this year, anyway. Coming into this game: .877 OPS vs. RHB, 1.337 OPS vs. LHB. No, that is not a misprint, and that 1.337 OPS contained a .500 BA (17-for-34).

Well of course you know what’s next, a three-run homer, and that was pretty much that.

Oh, here’s another nice defensive play [VIDEO], this one by Jason Heyward.

Well, yay, I guess, but also, big whoop.

The Cubs were awful against a parade of Pirates relievers until two out in the ninth, when with two runners on base, Willson Contreras doubled [VIDEO], scoring the only Cubs run of the game.

I mean, so freaking what, they lost by four instead of five and didn’t get shut out.

Sorry, but these games are starting to make me angry. This team has too much talent to play this way... and yet, they are playing this way. They look utterly defeated, and that’s not what we have seen from essentially this same group of players over the last four-plus years. I don’t know what’s going wrong, but they had better figure it out soon or this year is going to be an utter disaster. Which team does not belong on this list?

That’s five teams that are a combined 120 games under .500... and the Cubs. The Cubs don’t belong in that group... unless they do.

Somehow, the Cubs remained just a game out of first place in the Comedy Central because the Brewers also lost. On June 20, the Cubs were 41-33 and led the Central by 1½ games. Since then, here are the records for the five N.L. Central teams:

Pirates 8-3
Brewers 6-5
Reds 4-6
Cardinals 3-6
Cubs 4-8

Other than the Pirates’ recent record, that’s pretty uninspiring.

The Cubs have four games remaining before the All-Star break. It would, at this point, be great if they could win two of them and then try to regroup after the break. But the way they’ve been playing, splitting those four games might be a tall order. The Cubs don’t usually have a lot of team meetings, but they’ve had two in two days, one players-only, the other Joe Maddon’s usual midseason meeting, and then they went out and did a lot of the things teams normally don’t do after meetings like that.

I’m not usually one to be out on the ledge, as you know. I tend to be an optimist. But man, this team looks terrible.

All they can do is show up at PNC Park and try to win Wednesday’s game. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs and Chris Archer will go for the Pirates. Game time again is 6:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via NBC Sports Chicago.