When the Cubs exploded for a dozen runs Thursday night to win the series opener in Cincy, their first such victory they’d managed since May 17 in Washington, it felt significant. With their home whites hanging in the visitors clubhouse, the Cubs had brought some of that Wrigley magic out on the road with them. Turns out it was just a parlor trick.
They’ve now been outscored 15-3 in the last two games and head into Sunday’s finale needing a win against the Reds’ ace just to break even. The time has long since passed to make any sense of the Cubs’ inability to play consistently not-bad baseball on the road and even Joe Maddon has given up trying to explain it.
“I can’t give you a solid answer,” Maddon said after Saturday’s debacle. “They’re the same guys. We’ve been through this before. We’ve played well on the road. I don’t know. I don’t know. The other teams have gotten better.”
It’s easy for those teams to be better when Kyle Hendricks is piping mid-80’s fastballs that are easily turned around for homers. Perhaps he was hoping he’d make out like Cole Hamels and by using the same rope-a-dope strategy to tire his opponents out. Instead, he was left in to wear the loss like a pair of big boy pants Maddon handed out recently.
“Obviously, we’re comfortable at home,” a predictably detached Hendricks opined with a shrug. “I think that goes for the group, and myself included. I’m very comfortable at home. I’ve just had a couple blowups on the road that have inflated that, I think. I’ve had some good games on the road, too. I just need to be more consistent overall.”
There is a point at which you throw up your hands and understand that Aristides Aquino is just going to get his, but he’s just the latest in a long line of Cubs killers this season and beyond. Not to take anything away from the young slugger, who’s now hit something like 37 homers in three games against the Cubs so far, but it’s not as though he was Vlad Guerrero-ing pitches from his shoes to his eyes.
Of course, he could have stopped at his second home run of the night and it wouldn’t have mattered because the Cubs were dead in the water. It’s just one of those inexplicable things that really doesn’t deserve even this much time, though there’s one more quirk of the series that should be discussed before we go.
Steve Cishek was placed on the IL Saturday with inflammation in the same left hip in which he had a torn labrum in 2016, which isn’t great news. There seemed to be a silver lining of sorts in the Cubs’ recent trend of using the 10-day IL more proactively, but it turned out to be yet another case of letting a guy push through a lingering issue.
“Because of everything else that’s been going on, he did not want to own up to it, which is typical of him,” Maddon said of Cishek’s hip. “It was, I guess, bothering him enough last night to say something late, and then we had to do something. But I think if the rest of the group had been well, he might’ve said something earlier.”
I think this is where you insert the meme of the cartoon dog in the burning house saying that everything is fine. Since, you know, it’s not. Fine, that is. Which is why I’ll just close it out here, as there’s really no value in lambasting the Cubs any more than the Reds already have this weekend.
Good think they’ve only got two more road series before getting back to Wrigley.