By Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune –
MILWAUKEE — Winning games is one thing, but simply making contact has become a difficult task for the beleaguered Cubs, who struck out 13 times Wednesday in a 3-2 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park.
The K-Fest follows a pair of 12-strikeout games against the Brewers on Monday and Tuesday, leaving them with 66 over their last six games and 71 on the 1-6 road trip.
If the Cubs had some power hitters cranking homers, manager Dale Sveum probably could live with a few strikeouts.
“Obviously they go hand-in-hand, but you have to have both hands,” Sveum said with a laugh. “You can’t have both — no home runs and a bunch of strikeouts.”
The Cubs did manage a pair of home runs from David DeJesus and the invisible All-Star, Bryan LaHair. But they couldn’t get any offense going against Yovani Gallardo, finishing with five hits while being swept.
Youth aside, the numbers are hard to stomach. The Cubs are 4-18 over their last 22 games, after going 19-10 the previous month. They’re hitting .213 over that stretch with a 5.12 ERA and have been outscored 114-74.
“Obviously we went in completely the opposite direction,” Sveum said. “I’m not going to lie to you and say it doesn’t get frustrating to lose and be behind constantly to where the closer has, I think, three save opportunities (this) month. We have to start getting on the board early, getting leads and staying on top.
“It’s very difficult when you’re not getting people on base. DeJesus is swinging the bat, but we’re not getting him in, not getting him over. There are a lot of things going on that are starting to get glaring..”
Lefty Travis Wood (4-10) pitched well, allowing three runs over seven innings, but got the seventh loss in his last eight starts. Ryan Braun’s home run in the sixth inning turned out to be the decisive run.
“Just grind it out,” Wood said.
That seemed to be the catchphrase of the day for the Cubs. Sveum said the word “grind” more than 10 times in interviews before and after the game. But the Cubs can’t be labeled “grinders,” as DeJesus and LaHair are the only hitters who consistently see a lot of pitches.
The rookie call-ups, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, have yet to show signs of progress. Jackson struck out three times, including two called third strikes, leaving him with 29 strikeouts in 55 at-bats. Vitters, who grounded out while pinch-hitting, has a .116 on-base percentage in 42 at-bats.
Sveum said the Cubs hitters were “aggressive when we shouldn’t be and passive when we should be aggressive.”
“We have to address these problems in the winter to produce runs,” he said. “We’re super young right now. That’s part of the gig and we knew it. … But if you are going to struggle, I’d much rather see you have (a) plan and not go down looking so much in key situations.”