On the bright side, there was no need for all the focus to be on the Cubs’ ongoing inability to hit after a 5-2 loss to the Braves on a freaky Friday at Wrigley Field.
There were other matters of strange, terrible baseball to share the spotlight.
Such as David Bote getting thrown out at second base on a bad-idea, worse-execution steal attempt to end the sixth inning with the Cubs down 4-2 and the potential tying run at the plate.
Or Javy Baez winging it with a total head-scratcher of a bunt attempt — and fouling out to the catcher, as if there’s anything worse — with the leadoff man on base and no one out in a 5-2 game in the eighth.
“You’re looking at guys that are trying to do whatever they can to win a baseball game,” bench coach Andy Green — who filled in for suspended manager David Ross — said about the bunt.
But trying to win doesn’t explain Baez holding on to the ball at short and finally throwing late to home while Ronald Acuna Jr. scored from second on a ground ball in the fourth to make it 4-1.
Or starting pitcher Zach Davies (1-2) serving up a fourth-inning double to opposing starter Kyle Wright (1-0) — it was Wright’s first career hit — to key a three-run Braves rally. What happened to pitchers not being able to hit anymore? Davies can ask himself that as he ruminates on his 10.32 ERA.
“It was just a struggle all day,” he said.
But enough about all that. Whom are we kidding? Of course the focus should be on the Cubs’ catatonic bats. This is a team that totaled 59 hits in its first 12 games, a miniscule average of 4.9. The Cubs have been taking futility where few, if any, punchless teams have dared take it before.
Well, guess what? With six hits in the opener of a three-game series and a nine-game homestand, the Cubs bumped their hits per game to an even five. Please, fans, try to contain your excitement.
“It has been a grind,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, whose one-hit day (along with two walks) upped his average to .182. “It has not been fun to watch.”
Day after day, it’s pretty miserable to watch.
“We’ve just got to keep swinging and somehow relax a little bit and just keep playing baseball,” Rizzo said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”
The Cubs were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, agonizing on a day when they drew six walks and had four batters hit by pitches. A tone was set in the first inning after the first two hitters, Ian Happ and Willson Contreras, reached and were moved to second and third by a Rizzo groundout. Kris Bryant struck out on three pitches and Joc Pederson flew out.
The Cubs stranded multiple runners in three of the first four innings. After a Contreras homer and a Rizzo walk in the fifth, any momentum died with the Cubs trailing 4-2 as Bryant again struck out on three pitches, Pederson lined out and Baez went down flailing at a slider buried at his shoe tops by lefty reliever Grant Dayton.
In the ninth, the Cubs loaded the bases for Pederson against southpaw Will Smith. Pederson signed with the Cubs because he wanted to play every day. Finding some left-vs.-left success is the key to the whole operation. So far, Pederson — who struck out to end the game — is 1-for-13 against lefties. Then again, he’s only 4-for-29 against righties.
As Rizzo pointed out, it’s a good thing the season is 162 games again and not 60 as it was in 2020.
Wait, is that a really good thing?
“This is part of being a big-leaguer,” Rizzo said. “You’re going to have ups and downs, and it’s how you carry yourself through these times that makes the good times sweeter.”