Save for a David Bote grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, the Chicago Cubs could not get much going on offense Sunday night against the Washington Nationals. Remove the home run and the Cubs would have mustered just five hits.
Albeit, the Cubs had to face Max Scherzer for seven innings but over the last 14 days, Chicago’s offense ranks 20th in the majors with a 94 wRC+, behind teams like the Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres and Texas Rangers. In addition, over that same time span, the Cubs’ offense owns the ninth lowest ISO in the game with a .137 mark.
Without much power and a middle-of-the-pack batting average over the last 14 days, it’s no wonder why the Cubs owned a 13-11 record since the All-Star break entering play on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the Cubs’ offense continued their slump, getting shut-out by the Milwaukee Brewers as the team fell 7-0.
The offense has not been the only problem plaguing the Cubs post-All-Star break. Entering play, the Cubs’ rotation was sporting the sixth highest starter’s ERA in the majors at 5.24. To go along with that, Cubs’ starters have the ninth highest BB/9 (3.33) since the All-Star Game, while at the same time logging the 13th lowest K/9 (7.58) in the majors.
On Tuesday afternoon, in the first game of a very important two-game set with the Brewers, the Cubs’ offensive problems became compacted with their starting pitching struggles. Jhoulys Chacin, the Brewers’ starter on Tuesday, came into the game sporting a very solid 3.91 ERA but a less-than-stellar 18.8 percent strikeout rate. Despite that and his 4.27 FIP, the right-hander was a strikeout machine on Tuesday.
In the first inning, Chacin wasted little time, striking Anthony Rizzo out on an off-speed pitch high in the zone. Four batters later, with two men on following a Ben Zobrist double and Jason Heyward walk, Tommy La Stella fell victim to Chacin, striking out to end the threat.
As the game continued on, Chacin seemed to lock-in instead of fade. To start the second inning, the big right-hander got Kyle Schwarber swinging and Willson Contreras looking, running his strikeout total to four on the evening. Finally, in the third, Chacin used a strikeout of Javier Baez to end another mini-rally started by the Cubs’ offense. After an Ian Happ double and Rizzo ground out that moved Happ to third, Baez struck out looking on what appeared to be a slider at the top of the zone.
That strikeout only worsened what has been a rough time at the plate for Baez. Entering play, Baez had not logged a hit since August 7 against the Kansas City Royals. Prior to his double in the sixth inning, Baez was 0-for-his-last-18, a slump that lowered his batting average from .300 to .291.
By the end of the sixth inning, Chacin seemed to be locked in very well. Following the double by Baez to begin the inning, the right-hander got Zobrist to look at strike three, running his count to eight on the evening. Heyward then grounded out to second base, moving Baez to third before La Stella lined out to left field to end the run-scoring opportunity.
On the pitching side of things, the Cubs had a dream match-up in left-hander Jose Quintana. Entering play, the southpaw was sporting a 4-1 record and 0.92 ERA in seven career starts against the Brewers. In addition, Quintana had logged an 0.95 ERA in three starts against Milwaukee this season, seemly setting the Cubs up for success on Tuesday.
Despite his past success when facing the division rival, Quintana was not sharp this time out. Six days after he allowed five earned runs over 6.1 innings against the Royals, it seemed the left-hander wished to match that line on Tuesday. Lorenzo Cain wasted no time in getting the Brewers on the board, mashing a lead-off solo home run into the center field seats on the second pitch of the game.
Just three batters later and following a single by Jesus Aguilar, Ryan Braun deposited a two-run blast deep into the left field bleachers, putting the Brewers up 3-0 through the first half inning of play.
That rocky first inning only continued a developing trend for the southpaw this season. Entering play, Quintana was sporting a first inning ERA of 4.09 with opposing batters slugging .458 off him in the first frame.
Already staring down a three-run deficit, Quintana was tagged again in the third. Just like in the first inning, Aguliar reached base, this time on a free pass, ahead of Braun who launched a curve ball almost out of the stadium, pushing the Brewers’ lead to 5-0.
Overall, the Brewers never allowed Quintana to settle in, tagging him for six hits over five innings of work. The left-hander’s final line looked like this: five innings, six hits, five earned runs, one walk and five strikeouts on 71 pitches.
Those three home runs, combined with a solo blast and RBI double by Erik Kratz later in the game made it 7-0 and proved to be all the Brewers needed on Tuesday as Chacin completely shut down the Cubs over seven very solid innings of work.
Already with eight punch outs through six, Chacin retired Schwarber and Albert Almora on strikeouts in the seventh, upping his total to ten on the evening. With those ten strikeouts, the right-hander set a new season high, besting his nine strikeout performance on July 23 against the Nationals.
Chacin’s final line looked like this: seven innings, three hits, zero earned runs, two walks and ten strikeouts on 105 pitches.
With yet another lackluster offensive performance on Tuesday, the Cubs’ offense has not scored more than four runs in a week (August 7) and have not plated more than five since a 10-6 loss on August 5 against the San Diego Padres.
The loss on Tuesday pushes the Cubs’ record to 68-50 while the Brewers improve to 68-54 on the season.
Next Up For The Cubs
The Cubs will wrap-up their short two-game set with the Brewers on Wednesday, August 15 at 1:20 p.m. at Wrigley Field. Taking the ball for the Cubs will be Kyle Hendricks (8-9, 4.02 ERA). Despite owning a 4.63 over his last two starts, Hendricks had failed to walk a batter in those outings spanning 11.2 innings. In fact, the right-hander has not walked a batter since July 24 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Opposing Hendricks on the mound Wednesday will be right-hander Junior Guerra (6-7, 3.40 ERA). Guerra, 33, has turned in two solid starts in the month of August. Spanning 14 innings, the righty has allowed five earned runs on 13 hits while striking out nine and posting an ERA of 3.21.
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