The inability of the Cubs to win games on the road, pretty much all season, has been a theme of 2019.
Even while they have posted an outstanding mark at Wrigley Field (47-24), they have simply forgotten how to win away from the Friendly Confines.
It’s maddening. (Not “Maddoning.”) No one’s been able to figure it out, not Joe, not the players, and certainly not me. If I had answers, I’d write about them here, or tell management, or both.
The Cubs lost to the Padres 4-0 Wednesday night and looked particularly bad doing it. They mustered just three hits off three Padres pitchers who you had probably never heard of until this game. It was so bad that the only real Cubs highlight I can show you here is Anthony Rizzo’s second-inning triple [VIDEO].
Now, note the number of outs in the scorebox as that triple is hit: “0”. Nobody out, runner on third, scoreless game.
And yet, there he continued to stand as Kris Bryant hit a fly ball to center too shallow to score the run, Willson Contreras struck out and Jason Heyward hit one of his patented ground balls to second.
No creativity, no attempt at a squeeze bunt, nothing. Heck, I would have been happy to see Rizzo try to steal home. He’d probably have been out, but at least that would have generated some excitement among all of us who are sleep-deprived from having stayed up past midnight to watch the last three games.
Cole Hamels didn’t pitch poorly in this game, allowing just one run on a solo homer, but he didn’t really pitch well either. The tone was set in a 20-pitch first inning in which he issued a walk and ran a couple of long counts. You had the feeling that he’d barely last five innings even then, and that turned out to be true, with Joe Maddon having to pull him in the fifth inning. With Tyler Chatwood not available after a three-inning stint Tuesday, that meant some of the Iowa Shuttle guys were going to have to pitch.
With the game 1-0 and still within reach in the sixth, Brad Wieck entered with runners on first and third and two out to face lefthanded pinch-hitter Josh Naylor. Wieck retired Naylor, but not until after he did this [VIDEO].
This is a play worked on in spring training. When a runner takes off like that, the pitcher is supposed to run straight at him. Ty France, the runner, would have easily been tagged out. Instead, Wieck threw the ball... somewhere in the direction of the net behind the plate, where France scored easily.
Do you really need to hear more about this game? I didn’t think so. The Cubs’ situation is summed up nicely by Rizzo here:
Rizzo: "These next two-plus weeks, we just need to win. I don’t care how it’s done. I don’t care if it’s pretty or ugly. We just have to win.— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) September 12, 2019
“If we don’t win games we’re going to be barbecuing too early."
He’s right. Obviously it doesn’t help to have Javier Baez out, and Craig Kimbrel out, but this team has never made excuses about those sorts of things and I don’t see that happening now. Other players have to step up, and the last two games, they haven’t.
The even more maddening thing about the last two losses is that the Cardinals have been cooperating by losing games in Colorado, two straight. The Cubs could have been two games behind. Instead, the deficit remains at four with 17 to go. Not impossible, but to paraphrase one of the great Yogi Berra’s sayings: “It’s getting late early out there.”
The Marlins have not helped the Cubs out in their series against the Brewers. Milwaukee’s won all three even though they’re now without Christian Yelich for the rest of the way, and the Brewers and Cubs are now tied for Wild Card Spot No. 2.
None of this is optimal, and the Cubs are staring October at home in the face.
And then there’s this Cubs perfectly bizarre 2019 road game split:
Road day games: 9-7
Road night games: 21-37
Not only that, overall this year:
Day games: 36-24
Night games: 41-44
I suppose that gives some sign of hope for this afternoon’s contest in San Diego. (Thank heavens, no more late-night starts for the rest of 2019.) But what’s the deal about this team that they are a .600 team in sunshine, .482 under the lights?
That makes me a bit more optimistic about the final game of this series, which will be played in San Diego sunshine. Yu Darvish will start for the Cubs and Dinelson Lamet goes for the Padres. Game time is 2:40 p.m. CT and TV coverages will be on NBC Sports Chicago.
Today’s game preview will post at 12:30 p.m. CT.