On Tuesday night, the Cubs celebrated a win over the Brewers that even president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer considered among the team’s best of the season. Then Chicago followed it with a loss that was among the worst. In a 7-0 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday, the club recorded just four hits, no walks and struck out 12 times.
Here are two observations from the Cubs’ loss:
Cubs get to Corbin early, can’t take advantage
Brewers starter Corbin Burnes had been among the league’s best pitchers through the first two weeks of the season. He allowed just one run, two hits and no walks through 12 1/3 innings in his first two starts. Considering the Cubs went into Wednesday last in the league in average (.167), on-base percentage (.261) and slugging (.318), facing Burnes was among the last things Chicago wanted to do.
But early on, it looked like the Cubs would actually do some damage against Burnes.
Following a two-run bottom of the first from Milwaukee, Chicago was on track to match it in the top of the second. Left fielder Joc Pederson led off the frame by reaching first after a dropped third strike. After shortstop Javier Báez struck out, right fielder Jason Heyward doubled down the left-field line to put two men in scoring position. Burnes, though, quickly shut down the threat. Third baseman David Bote struck out for out No. 2, and catcher Austin Romine then flew out to right, stranding both runners.
“That's the best guy we've faced all year there today. I mean, 97 [mph] with cut, and the changeup and the breaking ball [were] really effective. Not walking guys ... his numbers are pretty ridiculous and really good,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “We got some guys, had a chance to score early on, [but] didn't get that run in.”
The Cubs struck out 10 times against Burnes over just six innings, whiffing on 19 of his 81 pitches. The team average now sits at .163, which is the worst in team history through 12 games since at least 1901.
Miller suffers hiccup, Cubs hope for better days ahead
Chicago's bullpen has been among the bright spots in a tough start to the season.
Only three relievers with three or more appearances out of the bullpen sport an ERA above 3.50 after Wednesday, with the 'pen anchored by closer Craig Kimbrel, who has allowed just one walk and no hits through six innings. But the bullpen isn’t perfect, and it struggled through the middle innings against the Brewers.
Shelby Miller made his Cubs debut in the sixth inning, his first appearance in a regular-season game since June 25, 2019. He was selected from the alternate training site Wednesday in a series of moves that also included optioning Adbert Alzolay to the alternate site (which Ross said was done in part to not give his staff too many off-days after Kyle Hendricks was scratched from Tuesday’s start, and with an off-day coming Thursday).
Ross brought in Miller to relieve Jake Arrieta, but Miller couldn’t keep the score close. Miller didn’t record an out in his first appearance of the season, giving up four runs on two hits and three walks before Ross gave him the hook.
“[Miller was] just searching a little bit. It looked like his body was ahead of his arm a lot, a lot of misses up,” Ross said. “Just didn't look in sync out there on the mound yet.”
Justin Steele then came in with the bases loaded and no outs. He allowed Burnes to knock in two with a single, but he did follow with three straight outs to limit the damage. Steele’s quick recovery proved Chicago has capable relievers on its staff, but Miller’s outing, combined with the lack of run support, proved the 'pen has a slim margin for error.
With the loss, the Cubs head back to Wrigley Field to host the Braves and the Mets in consecutive three-game sets. Chicago has labored through its first 12 games, all coming against either the Pirates or Brewers. With the off-day Thursday and fresh faces coming into town, the Cubs hope to turn things around in short order to start the homestand.
“It's a matter of maintaining a strong mindset and understanding that the routine is more important than the result [at] certain times, staying true to that and being comfortable with letting the chips fall where they do at times,” Arrieta said. “None of us like to lose, but when you flat out get beat, sometimes you have to understand that that's the way it's going to go and give credit where credit's due.”