One thing Joe Maddon was known for in his five-year tenure as Cubs manager was many different lineup combinations, batting guys in different spots, just creating different looks for the opposition.
When David Ross took over he said he was going to change that, that players wanted stability in the lineup and he was going to go with mostly set lineups.
That’s all well and good but seriously, David, when things aren’t working make some changes, even if they’re only temporary! I made one such suggestion here Sunday, not that he’s going to listen to me, but the same old lineup had the same old results Sunday against the Cardinals in another dull defeat, 7-3.
It started out all right. With the wind blowing out at a steady 17 miles per hour, the teams traded solo homers in the first inning. Tommy Edman put the Cardinals up 1-0 and in the bottom of the inning, Anthony Rizzo tied the game [VIDEO].
Both of those home runs had some help from the wind and so did this one from Jason Kipnis in the second inning with a runner aboard:
It’s 3-1 heading to the third. Jon Lester, apart from the home run, has looked decent. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, you know what happens when I ask that question. Plenty, including a three-run homer by Paul Goldschmidt, who used to wear out Cubs pitching when he was a member of the Diamondbacks. Goldschmidt is hitting .280/.455/.440 (7-for-25) against the Cubs this year with a double and a home run and frankly, I’ll be glad to not see him again in 2020 after Monday.
Still, it’s only 5-3 after St. Louis’ four-run outburst in the third, and plenty of time remaining.
But as has been the case so many times over the last few weeks, the Cubs offense basically vanished after Kipnis’ homer. They had just four more hits and only two runners past first base. It felt like they were going through the motions, and I know that’s not the way this team operates, but something, anything has to be done to try to get this offense going again. Over their last five games, in which they are 1-4, they have been outscored 23-12.
A couple of positive notes came out of the bullpen, once the game was pretty much out of hand: Craig Kimbrel threw a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts, again getting strikes on his curveball. And new Cubs lefty Matt Dermody, pitching in the big leagues for the first time since 2017, also had a 1-2-3 inning, throwing just nine pitches. The Cubs need Kimbrel to be “good Kimbrel” and they could use an effective lefthander out of the pen; if those two outings are what’s to come, that’s a good sign. About Kimbrel:
Hey, how about a note from the Dept. of Positivity:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 7, 2020
Craig Kimbrel has 2+ strikeouts in 8 straight relief outings. He's the first Cubs reliever to do that since Hall of Famer Lee Smith (also 8 in a row) from Aug. 20-Sept. 10, 1983.
Meanwhile, this was another poor outing from Lester, and here’s what he said after the game:
Jon Lester said postgame that he’s battling confidence right now. Here was that portion of his Q&A with reporters after the 7-3 loss to Cardinals... pic.twitter.com/gtLllhzObk— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 7, 2020
One last note: Jason Heyward left the game after the fourth inning “not feeling well.” Here’s the postgame update on Heyward:
Ross: Heyward was experiencing light-headedness and shortness of breath. Sent to local hospital for further testing. More will be known Monday.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 7, 2020
Hope he’s OK. As always, we await developments.
As bad as the Cubs have been in this recent stretch, they still lead the NL Central by 1½ games going into Monday’s action. A win Monday would put them 2½ ahead with 18 games remaining — and the Cubs and Cardinals don’t face each other after Monday. The Brewers at four games back and the Reds at five games behind don’t appear to be serious competition for the Cubs, not at this point, anyway.
When a team is on a bad streak like the one the Cubs are on, shaking up the lineup — even for one game — is a time-honored way of just trying to do something different. David Ross should do that. Heck, he could even do this:
Why not? Couldn’t hurt!
The Cubs will try to salvage Monday’s finale with Kyle Hendricks on the mound. He’s been great at Wrigley Field — 2.60 ERA and 0.795 WHIP in four starts there this year, with only two walks in 27⅔ innings. He’ll face Cardinals rookie Johan Oviedo. Game time is 3:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage is via Marquee Sports Network. The game will also be on ESPN, outside the Cubs and Cardinals market territories. Today’s game preview will post at 1 p.m. CT.