ST. LOUIS -- When Anthony Rizzo stood in the batter's box in the eighth inning on Wednesday night, he gripped his bat with bare hands. He flied out to left field and had batting gloves back on by his next at-bat.
It was a clear sign that Rizzo is searching for something -- anything -- to help him snap out of a prolonged offensive funk.
"It's been a while since I haven't used batting gloves," Rizzo said. "Hey, it's just one of those things where you're trying to relax a little bit. I've been putting in the work. I feel really good in the cage."
That good feeling just hasn't been translating to the batter's box of late.
In Wednesday's 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Cardinals, Rizzo went 0-for-5, marking his first hitless game with at least five at-bats this season. He also made a baserunning blunder in the 10th, getting chased down between third and home on the backend of a costly double play.
"Some of it may be just trying a little bit harder, right?" said Cubs manager David Ross. "When things aren't going well, I think that's natural."
Ross said it's important for Rizzo -- who entered Thursday's game batting .198/.316/.333 in the 24 games since June 16, when his season OPS was north of .800 -- to focus on the positives right now.
As an example, Ross pointed to the ninth inning, when Rizzo stepped in the box (with batting gloves back on) with two outs and the bases loaded. He ripped a John Gant pitch 103 mph to shallow right field -- but right to second baseman Tommy Edman.
"You need some stuff to fall," Ross said. "That's a guy you want at the plate in that at-bat, and he smoked that ball to Edman. That's just kind of bad luck. If we can create that at-bat on a consistent basis, he's going to be fine."
Rizzo said a key for him will be to trust the program that has helped him throughout a career defined by consistency.
"When you get into ruts, you do whatever it takes," Rizzo said. "There's a routine that I have and I'll just keep sticking to that and keep grinding."
Of course Ross wanted to use Kris Bryant off the bench late in Wednesday's loss in St. Louis. His pregame discussion with Bryant, however, led to a situation where the manager had to go another way with the game on the line.
"It's like holding a deck of cards and knowing I can't use the ace, right?" said Ross, who called upon Robinson Chirinos and Eric Sogard in pinch-hit situations in the ninth. "But I'm never going to put somebody in harm's way."
Bryant left Tuesday night's game with what the Cubs have described as right hamstring fatigue. Ross has likened it to "heavy legs," and he knew going into Wednesday his star would not be able to play.
Ross' hope is that Bryant can return to the lineup on Friday, when the Cubs host the D-backs in Chicago.
• The Cubs initially planned on activating utility man Matt Duffy (back) from the 60-day injured list on Thursday, but that move was delayed for at least a day. Chicago preferred to have an extra arm in the bullpen, recalling righty Trevor Megill from Triple-A Iowa.
• While Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel allowed the game-winning hit to Yadier Molina in the 10th inning on Wednesday, the run was unearned. Kimbrel has not yielded an earned run since May 15 -- a span of 21 games (19 2/3 innings).
"Some of the at-bats that you're proud of in the ninth -- the way the guys fight -- we've got to take that same mentality in the first or the second or third." -- Ross, on the Cubs' offense