This isn't fun. The Cubs started 6-7 in 2017 and they have matched that this year. Of course in 2017, that was after facing the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers for 13 games. This year that 13 game period includes games against the Marlins, Reds, Pirates, Brewers, and Pirates. The difficulty of those first 13 games was certainly higher in 2017 and they had the added difficulty of just playing in the World Series. It isn't pretty right now.
Here was the Cubs offense for the afternoon. Kris Bryant had a solid single with two outs in the first inning. Jason Heyward walked to lead off the second inning. That was followed by a one out Ian Happ single, and the bases were loaded with two outs after Kris Bryant was hit with a pitch. Tommy La Stella singled to start the sixth inning. Ian Happ had a two out double in the eighth inning. That is every single Cubs base runner in the game.
Yu Darvish started off strong retiring the first two Braves hitters, but the pitch count drifted up early with a Freddie Freeeman single and Nick Markasis walk. Darvish wouldn't have a 1-2-3 inning until the third inning, and that would be his only clean inning of the afternoon. The Braves threatened to score again in the fourth inning. Dansby Swanson had a one out double. Ryan Flaherty was struck out looking for Darvish's second of four strikeouts. Anibal Sanchez attempted a two out bunt, and Willson Contreras's throw was well wide of first baseman Kris Bryant. Sanchez was ruled to be out of the base line and was called out to keep the score level.
The fifth inning was the decisive inning in the game. Ozzie Albies hit a double with one out, and he moved to third when Yu Darvish peaked back in the middle of a hesitation in his windup. The balk did not seem to rattle Darvish as Freddie Freeman struck out swinging for the second out of the inning, but a wild pitch allowed Albies to score the winning run of the game. Nick Markasis singled, and Kurt Suzuki doubled to give the Braves a chance to break the game open. That is exactly what happened as Darvish hung a 2-1 slider to Preston Tucker. Darvish loaded the bases with a walk, single and walk to Swanson, Flaherty, and pitcher Anibal Sanchez respectively. That ended the Darvish's outing, and the inning was brought to a merciful end by Brian Duensing.
The four runs were more than enough as the Cubs bats remained cold. Duensing, Pedro Strop, Mike Montgomery, Carl Edwards Jr, and Brandon Morrow combined for a scoreless 4.1 innings, but the Cubs have dropped below .500 yet again in 2018.
Feast of Famine
Mike Moody wrote about this earlier, but the 2017 Cubs total offensive performance hid the fact that it was very inconsistent. It seems like 2018 is going to be more of the same. It is tempting to refer to this season as the Hobbit since it seems like it is either feast of famine. The team has pounded opposing pitchers four times. It has failed to make a dent against them four times. The total numbers look good, but the record is going to be lower than expected if this trend continues. I am not sure what the solution is since there is an Anthony Rizzo size hole in the lineup. Tommy La Stella might be one of those solutions, but he actually failed to put the ball in play twice today. It was just an ugly day all around outside of the very good Cubs bullpen.
I have to admit that I had forgotten about Anibal Sanchez. He has been pretty bad as a pitcher for 3 straight years. But when he baffled Cubs hitters for 6 innings of three hit shutout ball, it brought back memories of the 2012-2013 offseason flooding back. Edwin Jackson was the big free agent prize for the Cubs that year, but only after Sanchez leveraged the Cubs offer to extract more money from the Detroit Tigers. Edwin Jackson was terrible immediately, but Sanchez was very good in 2013. He was solid in 2014, and then wasn't effective. Still he looked pretty good this afternoon. The 69 mph changeup he dropped was particularly impressive. The names of the guys that have baffled Cubs hitters is perhaps the most frustrating part of the 2018 campaign so far.
Bob: How has the Cubs season been?