The Cubs’ plan for Christopher Morel paid immediate dividends
David Ross and the Cubs want to ease the pressure just a bit off Christopher Morel’s shoulders.
Boy, did he ever.
Ross moved Morel to the 9-spot in the batting order to help him find his form after his recent struggles — he’s hit just .213 with a .590 OPS, 2 home runs, 6 RBI and 28 strikeouts over his last 15 games. Morel had previously hit leadoff in 32 of his 38 big-league games entering Wednesday night’s contest against the Reds.
“He’s putting a lot of pressure on himself, he’s swinging and missing,” Ross said. “Try to get his timing back, let the game come to him a little bit more rather than leading that off.”
The move more than paid off.
Morel went 2-for-4, including a 6th inning, 2-run home run in the Cubs’ 8-3 win over the Reds at Wrigley Field.
“One of my managers before me talked about how the lineup worked in a circular motion and the guys at the bottom also gotta get on for the guys at the top,” Ross said. “That 9-hole can be a second leadoff guy at times.”
He also provided a boon to the Cubs defensively, rifling a 97.3-mph throw from center to nab Tommy Pham at the plate in the top of the 4th to help Justin Steele escape a bases-loaded, one-out jam.
97.3 MPH on the throw from Christopher Morel 🚀 pic.twitter.com/8hA0QeJYgg— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) June 30, 2022
“It’s something incredible,” Morel said. “It’s the first time I’ve gotten someone out at home in my career, so it was just seeing that emotion, trying to give it my all, give my best, it was just something special.”
Morel was a spark for the Cubs at the bottom of the order Wednesday night. Ross and the Cubs knew he could be, given his demeanor even through his struggles.
“Even when things are going not as well as when he started, nothing else about him has changed,” Ross said. “His attitude is still the same. He comes in with a smile, high-fiving everybody, pounding the umpires before he hits — the whole thing that he’s established here.
“None of that’s changed and so you’re gonna go through ups and downs as a big leaguer, you’re gonna have success and failures, but the fact of his personality has stayed true to who he’s always been is a positive.”
He showed that in the bottom of the 5th. Morel led the inning off with a single to center field, rounded first and showed emotion to the Cubs’ dugout.
“I try to come in with a positive attitude,” Morel said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m doing well, if I’m not doing that well. It’s just about having that attitude, that effort rub off on the other players. And then, in turn, I might not have a good game at the plate, but I might have a good game helping others and inspiring the team.”
Two batters later, Willson Contreras homered to left-center field, extending the Cubs’ lead to 5-0.
Morel’s 6th inning home run was an example of what he can bring to the Cubs offense. He worked a 7-pitch at-bat and homered on an 87-mph cutter low and inside — the 6th cutter he had seen from Ross Detwiler in the at-bat and the third one he had seen low and inside.
“Just like the first time I was here, that first home run I hit, I tried to put the ball in play and just let God decide the rest,” Morel said.
He’s shown the ability to work counts, reach base and be a catalyst for the Cubs offense. Wednesday’s move by Ross reaffirmed that.