Help wanted: Cubs' bats continue slump in loss
Club has mustered only a solo home run in each of last five games
DETROIT -- Daniel Murphy can't get in the Cubs' lineup quick enough.
For the fifth straight game, the Cubs' offense consisted of a solo home run and nothing else. Anthony Rizzo led off the sixth inning with his 19th homer in the Cubs' 2-1 loss to the Tigers on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
"Once a game, we get our homer," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "That's our run. We've had chances but have been unable to capitalize."
A few hours before first pitch, the Cubs acquired Murphy from the Nationals, and he is expected to be in the lineup on Wednesday.
"It's a very, very experienced professional at-bat every single time, and the more of those we can have, the better off our entire lineup is," Rizzo said. "When guys grind at-bats, that's when we're at our best. We've grinded at-bats here and there but haven't done it as a unit."
But can one player carry a team?
"I've seen Daniel carry [a team]," Rizzo said, recalling the 2015 National League Championship Series when Murphy batted .529 for the Mets against the Cubs. "It'll take me a while to get over seeing him every day with the nightmares I've had [about that series]."
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The Cubs now are 0-for-22 with runners in scoring position over their last five games. That's not a good trend.
Despite their struggles, the Cubs still have the best record in the NL, but they are now 2 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals, who beat the Dodgers late Tuesday, in the NL Central.
Rizzo was asked if he sees any of his teammates pressing, but Jason Heyward answered for him.
"No -- no pressing," said Heyward, who struck out during a 10-pitch at-bat to end the game. "We don't have anything to press about."
"That's true," Rizzo said. "We don't have anything to press about. The urgency is there, the fight is there, the competitive drive is there. There's just no excuse for not hitting. It's just what it is."
Whether Murphy's presence is the difference remains to be seen. He was batting .324 this month.
"We're imperfect, along with every other club," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "We have some things we need to work on, and of late, our biggest issue has been our offensive inconsistency and lack of production and our lack of having the right kind of at-bats night in and night out. Adding Daniel Murphy is a step that we think will help us."
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Maybe Murphy could've helped the Cubs as far as their scouting report against Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann, who came into the game 1-5 with a 5.85 ERA over his last six starts. He scattered seven hits over six innings, striking out five.
Kyle Hendricks deserved better. He took the loss, giving up 10 hits over seven innings. Both of the Tigers' runs came in the first, and Hendricks now has served up 24 earned runs in the first inning in his 26 starts for an 8.31 ERA.
"It's definitely strange," Hendricks said of the lack of offense. "We'll be all right. We're still putting together good [at-bats]. Our guys are way too good. They'll break out in a big way soon."
Tuesday marked the start of a stretch of 23 straight games without a day off for the Cubs, who are now 5-6 in their last 11 games.
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Rizzo launched a curveball from Zimmermann to right and fell to his knees after the swing on his homer, but he got back to his feet and was able to complete his home run trot. Rizzo's blast was No. 184 in his Cubs career, 11th most in franchise history.
"The box is pretty slick, pretty rock hard," Rizzo said. "I slipped on my second at-bat, too. On a fastball, my back foot kind of just slid."
Rizzo said his spikes don't get the best grip when the dirt in the batter's box is that hard.
"But it worked," he said. More >
This is the eighth time since 1908 that the Cubs have gone as many as five games in a row while scoring one or fewer runs.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Catcher Willson Contreras may be struggling at the plate, but you wouldn't know it by his defensive play.
In the third inning, Niko Goodrum struck out and Nicholas Castellanos tried to steal second. But Contreras threw him out. Contreras also picked off Michael Mahtook in the seventh.
"Willie throwing out those two guys was huge, especially in the seventh," Hendricks said.
HE SAID IT
"We're trying to become as good as we can offensively as a group. When you pitch that well for five days and only win two of those games, that's the hard part. It's a mortal sin to waste that really good pitching, that method of pitching. The positive is we've won two out of five. We're 2-3 by scoring one run per a homer. You should be 0-5 under those circumstances. I can't even lament it. We haven't hit, but we've still won two out of five, and that's the bright side." -- Maddon
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Benjamin Zobrist was at first in the sixth when Kyle Schwarber hit a grounder to shortstop Jose Iglesias, who flipped to third baseman Jeimer Candelario at second. Zobrist was out, but Schwarber was called safe. The Tigers challenged the ruling, but after a review, the call was ruled to stand.
Jonathan Lester (13-5, 3.72 ERA) will close the Cubs' brief Interleague series at Comerica Park on Wednesday. He's coming off a win against the Pirates in which he gave up five hits over six scoreless innings. It was his first win in the second half. The left-hander is 2-6 with a 6.05 ERA in 11 career starts against the Tigers and has not pitched in Detroit since 2015. The Tigers will counter with lefty Francisco Liriano (3-8, 4.72 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT.