'Banged up' Cubs fizzle with RISP, fall in 10th

May 12th, 2021

Wielding one of Anthony Rizzo’s bats, Cubs outfielder was looking for his fourth hit of the afternoon on Wednesday. Instead, Pederson sent a fly ball high over the infield at Progressive Field for a costly out in the 10th inning.

"It's frustrating," Pederson said. "It doesn't feel good, that's for sure."

It was a snapshot of the day for Chicago, which had a long line of baserunners but a lack of breakthrough hits in a 2-1 loss to Cleveland in 10 innings. The Tribe dealt the North Siders a sweep of the two-game set, limiting the Cubs’ offense to a 2-for-27 showing with runners in scoring position.

That included a 1-for-15 performance by the Cubs in Wednesday's loss. That one hit? An RBI double in the sixth off the bat of Pederson, who did what he could to spark a lineup that is missing a handful of key contributors.

"I don't want to make excuses," Cubs manager David Ross said. "But we've done a really nice job of having good at-bats up and down the lineup, and then it just gets to a spot that we just haven't been able to come through, right? We are banged up."

The Cubs have been playing without Ian Happ (rib contusion) and Nico Hoerner (left forearm), who are both on the injured list. Javier Báez (back) and Jason Heyward (right hand) have also been playing through minor issues.

Kris Bryant -- playing like an MVP again this season -- was out of the starting lineup Wednesday due to illness. With the offense struggling to break through, he grabbed a bat for a two-on, two-out, pinch-hit cameo in the seventh. Bryant was promptly hit by a pitch and left the game.

"I think it's just a contusion," Ross said. "We were pinch-running for him either way."

The Cubs' offense did not have a single 1-2-3 inning on Wednesday, putting at least two runners aboard in seven of the 10 frames. In the final inning, Chicago had runners on first and second with no outs, but then the hard-throwing James Karinchak set down Ildemaro Vargas (strikeout), Pederson (popout to short) and Eric Sogard (strikeout) to escape.

The end result of the series was not ideal, though Ross was quick to note that the Cubs encountered the 2020 American League Cy Young Award winner in Shane Bieber on Tuesday. Besides Bieber, Cleveland also threw relief aces Emmanuel Clase and Karinchak a combined 4 1/3 innings in the series.

Along the way, Chicago churned out 20 hits and drew 10 walks in two games at Progressive Field. Six of those hits came via catcher Willson Contreras, who collected the Cubs' first four-hit game of the year on Wednesday, but could not generate the needed run production.

"We're close. Things are coming," Pederson said. "We're moving in the right direction."

Pederson was speaking for the offense as a whole, but it also applied to his personal performance.

Following a torrid performance in Spring Training, when Pederson hit .378 with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 18 Cactus League games, the new Cubs outfielder was slow out of the gate. He hit .137 (7-for-51) through 16 games before a left wrist injury sent him to the IL.

Pederson said that IL stint also served as a mental break.

"Baseball's a strange game," Pederson said. "Sometimes it speeds up on you pretty quickly. Unfortunately, I was on the IL, but you just have to make the best of your situation and get your mentals locked back in."

Since Pederson was activated on May 3, he has hit at a .444/.484/.481 clip in seven games. On Wednesday, he connected for a pair of singles off Cleveland starter Sam Hentges, giving Pederson a 4-for-5 showing off lefties in May.

With two outs in the sixth, Pederson ripped a Bryan Shaw curveball into the right-center gap for his run-scoring double. Late in the game, the Marquee Sports Network broadcast caught that Pederson was using one of Rizzo's bats.

"It felt good," Pederson said. "I used it in the cage and took it in the game, got some hits, so it's pretty cool. Thanks, Rizz."

The Cubs just needed that one extra hit to swing the afternoon's momentum.

"We're close as a team," Pederson repeated. "Things [are] going to start clicking."