Sad situation at the plate for Cubs in 2-0 loss to Phillies
By Brian Sandalow For Sun-Times Media April 5, 2014 9:30PM
Updated: May 7, 2014 6:23AM
Manager Rick Renteria said before Saturday’s game the Cubs’ offense might be having “situational struggles.”
Those woes continued in a 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs were shut out for the second time despite another good start from Jeff Samardzija and 10 hits off Phillies starter Cliff Lee. They went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position to make them 4-for-40 in that department through five games.
“I don’t know if it’s a mind-set. You do have to be relaxed and know that the pitcher’s on the ropes a little bit,” Renteria said. “It’s something that you talk about and you see if it starts to take hold, the understanding of that particular type of situation so the guys can be a little more relaxed.”
The lack of timely hitting undid Samardzija’s second strong start — which actually raised the starters’ ERA to 1.95. Samardzija’s quality start was the Cubs’ fourth in five games, though only Jason Hammel’s on Thursday in Pittsburgh led to a win.
After throwing seven shutout innings for a no-decision in Monday’s opener at Pittsburgh, Samardzija went seven Saturday and surrendered two runs and six hits while striking out eight, but took the loss. He allowed Chase Utley’s first-inning home run and Domonic Brown’s RBI single in the fourth, but got no support.
That’s been a common theme, though Samardzija said that’s not affecting how he is pitching.
“I don’t think so. We have a pretty veteran-laden staff that understands what you can control as a pitcher,” Samardzija said. “We understand that.”
Samardzija showed he understands that, but he didn’t get much help from an offense that got three hits from Starlin Castro and two each from Anthony Rizzo and Emilio Bonifacio. Unfortunately for the Cubs, none came with runners in scoring position, and they stayed stuck on eight runs through five games.
“It’s definitely too early for [pressing]. No one around really around here is feeling any kind of extra pressure,” third baseman Mike Olt said. “We’re just trying to figure something out. Early in the season this happens a lot and then the good teams are the ones that can kind of get over it.”
Lee pitched seven shutout innings and struck out six, but the Cubs had chances against him in the first, third, fourth, fifth, and seventh. Each chance ended the same way.
That might have been different if the Cubs’ approach at the plate had been better. Renteria said the Cubs didn’t swing at the best pitches, and he will continue to tell them to look for better chances in run-scoring opportunities.
“It’s OK if it’s a broken record. You keep repeating that. You keep talking about it,” Renteria said. “You never stop talking about it until you start to understand it and get a good feel for it.”