Cubs notes: Doing the little things, Joc Pederson’s first few weeks and a stroke of good luck for the offense
The Cubs know their offense can be a little too reliant upon the longball at times but on Tuesday, they found a way to do all the little things right.
The Cubs did not have an extra-base hit in their 3-1 win over the Mets Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, instead manufacturing runs the old fashioned way. All 3 runs came with 2 outs as the Cubs executed on a number of under-the-radar plays that don’t necessarily show up in the box score.
In the 3rd inning, Jake Arrieta got a sacrifice bunt down with 2 strikes and a couple batters later, that runner came around to score on an error.
In the 4th inning, Jason Heyward pulled off an epic swim move on a slide as he stole second base with 2 outs.
Stealing a run! pic.twitter.com/Zjtr6zD8iL— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) April 21, 2021
Immediately after, Eric Sogard knocked Heyward home with a hit and then Arrieta worked an impressive at-bat to draw a walk.
Two more walks later, the Cubs had their 3rd run of the evening and gave Arrieta all the room he needed to work with as he improved to 3-1 on the young season.
“The little things do matter,” David Ross said. “We try to stress those things. Getting that bunt down with 2 strikes, the baserunning, the stolen base, leading to being able to scrap across some runs. Guys continue to try to command the strike zone, staying within themselves led to a lot of walks set up some runs there for us too.
“All the way around, a quality win. In the details, doing the small things, trying to push across some runs. We did that tonight.”
Assessing Pederson’s first few weeks
The Cubs aren’t living in a fantasy world.
They understand the magnitude of their first two weeks of action in the 2021 season — and they know what it was like from a fan’s perspective.
Especially on the offensive side, as the lineup’s struggles reached historic proportions before last weekend’s breakthrough.
“It’s not been fun to watch,” Anthony Rizzo said after Friday’s loss.
Joc Pederson echoed that sentiment.
“I know it was hard to watch the first two weeks and it’s a lot harder on us performing out there — not performing, I should say,” Pederson said. “That’s extremely frustrating.”
The Cubs feel like they turned a corner offensively last weekend against the Braves when they exploded for 17 runs and 24 hits over the final two games.
Pederson also saw some good results, collecting 3 hits in 10 at-bats (including a triple) and drawing 3 walks.
“He’s felt more connected the last couple games,” Ross said. “You can really tell some better swings — even the balls he’s missed are fouled straight back rather than off to the third-base side. He was just a little bit late; the timing was off.
“He seems to be in a much better place the last couple games and getting some results and getting in some really good counts, taking some pitches that are off the plate — some borderline pitches. It looks like he’s starting to command the strike zone really well.”
Pederson wasn’t able to carry that success over to Tuesday, as he went 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts against Mets pitchers.
He knows the path forward is to continue to focus on the process — not necessarily what the box score says. He’s focused on having good at-bats and hitting the ball hard, even if that doesn’t always translate to hits.
Pederson also understands how to persevere and climb out of struggles.
In 2017, the Dodgers sent him down to Triple-A in August after an offensive slump. Later that fall, he reclaimed a starting role with the big-league club and posted a .333 average and 1.344 OPS in the World Series.
Last year, Pederson hit .190 with a .681 OPS in the regular season but turned it on in October with .382 and .991 OPS in 16 playoff games.
“I’m not really too worried about coming out of it,” he said. “I know I’m a really good baseball player, so I’m not gonna let 30 at-bats — as frustrating [as they were] and as much as it makes me feel like I’ve never picked up a bat — dictate how I feel about myself as a baseball player.”
David Bote was slated to start Tuesday’s game against the Mets, playing second base and hitting in his usual No. 8 spot in the batting order.
But he was scratched about an hour before the contest with an upset stomach and the veteran Sogard slid into Bote’s spot instead.
Sogard had a big game, playing a role in all 3 runs in the win over the Mets.
The Cubs caught a break Tuesday evening when the Mets announced ace and two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom would not pitch in the series.
He was originally supposed to throw in Thursday’s game, but asked for an extra day of rest so New York will trot out left-hander Joey Lucchesi against the Cubs instead in the series finale.
deGrom leads the league with a 0.45 ERA and has 35 strikeouts in 20 innings. He won the Cy Young Award in both 2018 and 2019 and has a 2.03 ERA and 0.93 WHIP since the start of the 2018 season.