Cubs aim to weather the storm after trying road trip

May 21st, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- did not depart Citizens Bank Park without his customary home run on Sunday afternoon. The young Cubs slugger waited until the ninth, but he drove a pitch from Craig Kimbrel out to right to keep his torrid offensive streak going for the North Siders.

There was just one problem.

“It’s the only run we had today,” Cubs manager David Ross said.

Morel’s late blast against the Phillies was the lone breakthrough in a 2-1 loss, which dropped Chicago’s ledger to 2-7 on its three-city swing through Minnesota, Houston and Philadelphia. Morel launched seven homers on the road trip, and has eight in his first 11 games back with Chicago, but the electricity in his bat could only do so much.

This was a trying trip against the American League Central-leading Twins and the reigning pennant winners in the Astros and Phillies. It was an opportunity for the Cubs to see how they stacked up against teams with October aspirations, and the club is limping back to Chicago for Monday’s off-day with plenty of issues to tighten up.

“I mean, realistically we've just got to be better,” Cubs shortstop said. “This game is meant to be played every day and played at a certain level. And at the end of the day, we've just got to be better, and we will.

“We've got a lot of great players in here. A lot of great track records in here. It's just a matter of it kind of coming together.”

Here is a look at the Cubs’ trip by the numbers:

• Overall, the offense turned in a .233/.318/.418 slash line. Morel and Seiya Suzuki accounted for 11 of Chicago’s 13 home runs.

• A bigger issue under the offensive hood was a .203 (13-for-64) showing with runners in scoring position.

• The pitching staff as a whole posted a 7.51 ERA in the nine games. That included a 9.10 ERA by the bullpen and a 6.45 ERA for the starters.

• The Cubs posted a -27 run differential for the trip (64 runs allowed vs. 37 runs scored).

“When you look at some certain numbers, you could say that we're playing pretty well,” Sunday's starter said. “And then you look at our record and it doesn't show it. That's just baseball. I feel like if we continue to keep doing the things we're doing, the script will flip.”

Steele was sharp in Sunday’s loss to the Phillies, logging six scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 2.20 on the year. It was the third quality start by a Cubs starter within the past four games, but the rotation had a string of uncharacteristically short outings earlier on the trip that put stress on the bullpen.

The Cubs saw the impact of missing leadoff man , who came off the injured list on Friday and helped ignite a 10-1 win in Philadelphia. Chicago is also dealing with the temporary loss of -- sidelined on the IL at the moment with a left knee issue. In the bullpen,  hit the IL with a right forearm strain.

Along the way, both starter and reliever were sent to Triple-A Iowa to sort through their respective issues. The Cubs also made other moves throughout the roster over the past three series, including the decision to designate veteran  for assignment.

Swanson was asked what the veterans in the room can do to help make sure the Cubs weather this storm before it spirals much further.

“It’s a little bit of kind of lead by example,” he said. “And continue to teach, whether it's younger guys or continue to bounce things off one another. Continue to build chemistry and consistently stay together and do things for one another.

“I feel like we've done that pretty well so far. And, you know, coming soon, I feel like we'll be able to consistently put performance after performance together.”

That starts with using the off-day as a mental reset.

“Big-picture wise,” Ross said, “we played two World Series teams here back-to-back and a first-place team to start it. We've got to be better. A good little litmus test to teams that play championship baseball and were in the biggest game in the World Series last year. I don't feel like we're far off from that, but we've definitely got to be better.”