The Cubs are 9-18 after Sunday’s 7-1 loss to the Dodgers.
There’s no sugarcoating it. That’s a bad record. Only three MLB teams (Tigers, Reds, Nationals) have a winning percentage (.333) as bad or worse.
I continue to maintain this team has more talent than it’s shown while losing 14 of its last 17 games. At some point, a bit of winning will happen. It wasn’t likely going to happen against the Dodgers, who might be the best team in the game and a team against which you don’t have any margin for error. Make a mistake — pitching, hitting or defense — and L.A. is going to pounce on it, and they did so repeatedly in this three-game series.
The Cubs did have the lead in this game, as they did in three of the five games in the just-completed homestand. Rafael Ortega led off the bottom of the first with a double, and after two strikeouts Willson Contreras drove him in [VIDEO].
So at that point we’re reduced to rooting for one of those “no margin for error” games. For two innings it looked like that might even happen. Justin Steele retired the first six Dodgers he faced, and managed to get out of the third inning scoreless despite allowing a leadoff single.
A Cubs 1-0 lead after three. Moral victory?
Of course, those don’t count. Steele got touched up for a pair in the fourth and the game was essentially over at that point. Then Steele came out for the fifth and was joined by David Ross and the team trainer. He left the game:
From the Cubs: Steele exited with left thumb soreness.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 9, 2022
Justin Steele's left thumb became increasingly sore in the fourth inning as he tried to grip his slider. He's hoping to make his next start, but Cubs will monitor how he's feeling with the hand in the coming days.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 9, 2022
As if the Cubs didn’t have enough pitching problems. Here’s a closer look at what happened when Steele departed [VIDEO].
Michael Rucker threw three innings and the Dodgers scored three more. Then David Ross went to Daniel Norris, the guy who had not done well as an opener Saturday. Of course, he winds up as the only Cubs pitcher who didn’t give up a run Sunday. Adrian Sampson, just recalled, threw the ninth and allowed two runs, both unearned. Of the seven Dodger runs, one scored on a double play, one on a wild pitch and two on this Nico Hoerner error in the ninth [VIDEO].
That was Nico’s first error of the year, and sure, players make errors but this play showed how much worse the Cubs defense has been since the selloff. If you look at Nico’s positioning on that play — and seriously, why do the Cubs have the infield in, down by four in the ninth? — if he had been in his normal spot that’s an inning-ending double play ball.
The rest of this game was typical Cubs from the last couple of weeks. They had just four baserunners after the first inning, just one (Ortega after a walk and steal in the third) past first base. Again, a lot of this is “Dodgers” just because they are so good at everything they do. Remember? The Cubs used to be that. That seems about as far away now as the 1908 World Series title used to feel to us.
Willson Contreras summed things up after Saturday’s doubleheader sweep, quoted by Paul Sullivan in the Tribune:
After the Cubs were swept by the Dodgers in a doubleheader Saturday, walking nine batters in the nightcap, catcher Willson Contreras admitted “it’s really tough to even watch, to be honest.”
Sunday’s loss was their 14th in 17 games and dropped them to 4-11 at home.
“Losing sucks, I’ll tell you that,” Contreras said. ”That’s all I can say.”
That’s about all I can say, too. As I noted at the beginning of this recap, this team is not THIS bad. There’s some talent on this roster — obviously not as much as other teams have — and at some point, there will be some winning. But Willson’s right, it’s tough to watch. A Cubs/Dodgers Sunday night game a couple of years ago would have been sold out. This one had 31,424 tickets sold, about 10,000 short of a sellout, and maybe 25,000 were in the house, though by the time Hoerner flied to center to end it, maybe 5,000 remained.
I’ll have more on this Cubs team and where it stands coming up at 12 noon CT today.
For now, I’ll just note that the Cubs begin a road trip in San Diego tonight. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and MacKenzie Gore will go for the Padres. (The Cubs will not face old friend Yu Darvish in this series.) Game time Monday is 8:40 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.