David Ross and Cubs not ready to panic over offense just yet
Last season, it would have been easy to fret over a week-long offensive struggle. In a 60-game season, a stretch of 5 or 6 games amounted to 10% of the season. That won’t be the case this season for David Ross and the Cubs in 2021.
Ross and the Cubs are staying focused on the long run and less on what the results might look like over a handful of games. So, they’re not agonizing the early offensive woes like the ones the Cubs went through in Wednesday’s series finale against the Brewers where they fell in extra innings 4-2.
“I don’t know how to control the outside narrative,” Ross said. “This is a 162[-game season]. I’m not gonna ride that roller coaster 4 or 5 games in. I’m not gonna do that. Just tell people to hold tight, I guess. Sit back, relax.”
Ross is making sure he’s taking a look at the whole process and not just the outcomes of plate appearances for the Cubs’ hitters. That means looking at how each hitter arrived at their results, even when there’s a rough stretch like there was in Tuesday and Wednesday’s games, where they went a combined 4-for-58 against the Brewers.
“Are they chasing outside of the zone?” Ross said. “What’s the quality of the at-bat or the quality of the pitch? Are they late? Is there a timing issue? Do they look just overmatched at times or is it just normal baseball, the ups and downs and the game of failure that we’re playing?”
That’s the mental approach the hitters are taking, too.
“I think you have to remind yourself you have 162 and not 10 or 5,” Ian Happ said after Tuesday night’s loss. “We’re so wired to be negative just as human beings. When things start rough, especially you get really lucky and get 70-degrees and the wind blowing out at Wrigley and you just want so badly to have that good start that when you don’t, you gotta remind yourself that it is a long haul and there’s plenty of at-bats.
“For guys this is 10, 15 at-bats out of 600-700. You just have to really be patient and stay with the process. It is a mantra that gets old very quickly but is always true.”
Ross’ faith in Pederson pays immediate dividends
Ross felt all it was going to take for Joc Pederson to get going was that first hit.
Wednesday afternoon, he notched that first hit, and, boy, did he get a hold of it. Pederson crushed a 417-foot home run off Devin Williams in the bottom of the 8th to tie the game at 1 for the Cubs.
“It was huge,” Pederson said. “It was a big relief just to get on the board and then at a time to tie the game up and give ourselves a chance to win. It felt good.”
In spring training, Pederson had a blistering 1.431 OPS with 8 home runs and 19 RBI. Prior to his solo shot, Pederson was 0-for-15 with 2 walks and 2 RBI.
“We have confidence in him,” Ross said before Wednesday’s game. “Just getting in that flow of the season sometimes, that first one’s the hardest one to get, but he’s had some at-bats where he’s done some good things to help us win ball games which is I think very unique and something that I think he brings every day.”
Hendricks bounces back
After an uncharacteristic start on Opening Day in which he allowed 3 runs, 4 hits and walked 3 in 3 innings of work, Kyle Hendricks returned to his vintage self on Wednesday afternoon.
“Kinda from the start from the first pitch I was working over the ball better, I was in my lanes better, fastball command from the jump was way better than last start,” Hendricks said. “Definitely on the right track, just gotta keep working on those same things and get it to be ingrained in me now.”
Hendricks struck out 6 and allowed just 4 hits and a walk in 6 shutout innings. It was a true pitcher’s duel as he and Brandon Woodruff went toe-to-toe. Woodruff took a no-hitter into the 7th inning, before he allowed a single to Ian Happ to lead off the inning. Woodruff permitted just the 1 hit and struck out 8 in 7 innings of work for the Brewers.
“I mean you’re aware of the situation, for sure, but you just have to simplify it even more and tell yourself, ‘Keep making good pitches and keep the team right there,’” Hendricks said. “I mean our guys are so good. I know if I keep the game right there, it gives us a chance to win and most likely it’s gonna happen.
Contreras’ day off
Ross and Willson Conteras had spoken a few days ago about planning an off day for Contreras on Wednesday. With a day game following Tuesday’s night game, followed by a trip to Pittsburgh and another day game, Ross felt it was the perfect opportunity to rest Contreras.
It had nothing to do with him being hit the last two days by Brewers’ pitchers.
“He’s called every game up to this point,” Ross said. “Day game after night game is always tough from a catching standpoint. Just somebody I’m really gonna try to monitor his innings as much as I can and protect him and his body as best as I can. This was scheduled way in advance.”
Contreras pinch hit for Tony Wolters in extra innings, walking with 2 outs in the 10th.