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Cubs looking for more leadoff production

Maddon hoping Schwarber, Happ can find stride in No. 1 spot
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The leadoff spot for the Cubs has been anything but a certainty this year.

Kyle Schwarber, who started the year in that spot, entered Sunday hitting just .167 with no hits in his past three games. Ian Happ, whom manager Joe Maddon has also used in that spot, is going through a slump of his own, hitting .132 (7-for-53) since May 23.

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CHICAGO -- The leadoff spot for the Cubs has been anything but a certainty this year.

Kyle Schwarber, who started the year in that spot, entered Sunday hitting just .167 with no hits in his past three games. Ian Happ, whom manager Joe Maddon has also used in that spot, is going through a slump of his own, hitting .132 (7-for-53) since May 23.

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"It's been inconsistent," Maddon said. "There's no question about that."

Even while the leadoff man at most only gets one more plate appearance than the rest of the team, Maddon said it can really set the table for the rest of the lineup.

The Cubs haven't had that so far. Happ is hitting .200 on the season when batting at the top of the order, and he is 0-for-6 with two strikeouts to lead off a game. Schwarber has started 36 games as the leadoff hitter. In those first-inning at-bats, he's gotten on base just 10 times.

"With Schwarber and Happ, [I'm] primarily looking at their history of getting on base even if they're not getting hits," Maddon said. "The difference with Schwarbs right now is he's just not getting his hits. ... If I was a betting man, I would've said he'd be hitting at least .250 right now, easily, based on history, but he's not."

Video: MIA@CHC: Schwarber goes the other way, cuts into lead

And compounding that problem for the Cubs is that while they try to fix the leadoff issue, the team they're playing is taking advantage of that very thing.

Rockies leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon entered Sunday slashing .417/.500/.722 in nine games in June, and he's recorded multiple hits in seven of those games.

In Saturday's 9-1 win over the Cubs, Blackmon started off the game with a single and scored on the next at-bat. In the series opener on Thursday, he doubled to lead off the game. The Rockies wouldn't score in that inning, but they'd see 24 pitches off Jon Lester, who would last only four more innings.

"A lot of times, when that first guy just hits a line drive somewhere, it puts the pitcher on his heels just a little bit. So there's a lot to be gained," Maddon said. "I think you have to look no further than their side right now with what their guy is doing. He's really set the table for that entire team."

Still, Maddon said he thinks the answer will come from either Schwarber or Happ. He still may try some other players, like Javier Baez against a left-handed pitcher or Jon Jay just to mix things up, but he said he has faith that eventually the two will get going again.

"Happ and Schwarber, based on their ability to accept walks, historically -- primarily for me, based on what we have and how we're set up -- would be the best two candidates," Maddon said. "And as they start hitting, it's going to become more obvious."

Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.

Chicago Cubs