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Cubs looking for boost from returning players

Getting Bryant, Morrow, Darvish back from DL would be great 'acquisitions'
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

ST. LOUIS -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon is looking forward to the acquisitions he's expecting in August.

"Our [disabled list] is fabulous," Maddon said Sunday of having Kris Bryant, Brandon Morrow and Yu Darvish on the DL. "It's an All-Pro DL. These guys could play in the Pro Bowl every year. Among the three of those guys, wow, what great acquisitions. Getting them back will make us look entirely differently."

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ST. LOUIS -- Cubs manager Joe Maddon is looking forward to the acquisitions he's expecting in August.

"Our [disabled list] is fabulous," Maddon said Sunday of having Kris Bryant, Brandon Morrow and Yu Darvish on the DL. "It's an All-Pro DL. These guys could play in the Pro Bowl every year. Among the three of those guys, wow, what great acquisitions. Getting them back will make us look entirely differently."

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Bryant is sidelined with inflammation in his left shoulder and has yet to resume baseball activities. Morrow, who has right biceps inflammation, also has not picked up a baseball. Darvish, who hasn't pitched since late May, has had two bullpen sessions as he recovers from right triceps tendinitis.

The Cubs began play Sunday with the best record in the National League despite not having that trio. They've added starter Cole Hamels and reliever Jesse Chavez this month.

"I do think we have enough but we need to get certain people healthy," Maddon said. "I'm not talking about just getting to the playoffs, you want to play that last game. Among Morrow, Darvish and K.B., could you make three better acquisitions this time of year? It's impossible. That's the goal is to get those guys out here."

If the Cubs win Sunday, they would have a 6-6 record since the All-Star break. What's been a troubling trend is the pitching during the 11 games so far since the break. Cubs pitchers have a 5.66 ERA, giving up 61 earned runs over 97 innings. They have three quality starts.

"We've got to pitch like we're capable of and get on those runs like we're capable of," Maddon said. "You've got to win those close games, win 1-0, 2-0 once in a while. That's only going to happen when you pitch well."

The Cubs' starters rank ninth in the NL with a 4.16 ERA heading into Sunday's game. In 2016 when they won the World Series, the Cubs had the best rotation in the Majors.

"For me, it's bad counts," Maddon said. "We're not dominating 1-1. I think 1-1 is turning into 2-1 way too often. We're not getting early-count outs. I think those are big issues for us. Hitters are seeing too many pitches, thus they become better hitters against those pitchers and that dovetails into 100 pitches after five innings. Sometimes it's been such a close game, 1-0, we may be losing going into the bottom of the fifth and I've chosen to pinch-hit if it gets hot with runners in scoring position. There's a lot of little nuance."

Opponents are batting .302 against Cubs pitchers when the count is 1-1, and .356 when the count is 2-1.

"The good side is, I don't think you can say our starters have been overextended to this point," Maddon said. "I'm looking at average number of pitches per game. ... Nobody should feel taxed, I don't think, going into August and September, which is a good thing. I have so much faith in our guys, that you're going to see us turn a corner and start pitching up to our capabilities and with that guys not being fatigued. That to me makes the most sense. I want to believe that. We'll see if it plays out."

• The Cubs officially added Hamels to the active roster and right-hander Cory Mazzoni was optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Hamels will make his Cubs debut Wednesday against the Pirates. He threw a bullpen session Sunday.

• Reliever Anthony Bass, on the DL since July 21 with a right mid-thoracic strain, threw off the mound Saturday and was scheduled to throw a bullpen during the Cubs' two-game series in Pittsburgh.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant, Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow