The Chicago Cubs came into the 4th inning against the San Francisco Giants leading 5-0. Scott Feldman was in complete control of his pitches and Cubs announcer JD was talking about how pitchers with this big of a lead stop thinking about winning and just think about giving their team a deep outing.
Feldman quickly got two outs, and then the wheels came off. With a runner on first the Giants executed a beautiful hit and run. With runners on first and third, Starlin Castro had a routine ground ball go through the five-hole. Runners were again at first and third, and then a ground ball came to Brent Lillibridge at second. Lillibridge held onto the ball instead of throwing it to Feldman, who did a great job of beating the runner to first. A hit batter followed the Cubs defensive struggles. Pablo Sandoval came up with the bases loaded. Sandoval delivered with a two-run double. Luckily for the Cubs, Buster Posey grounded weekly to third.
The Cubs have a history of falling apart for one inning after playing great baseball. I don’t know if it is a lack of focus or the feeling of “here we go again.” When bad things happen, for some reason the Cubs tend to let them multiply into what becomes an abysmal inning.
There are a few things the Cubs could do to right the ship during innings like the one yesterday. The first, and probably the easiest, is for a trip to the mound from the manager. Dale Sveum can make the trip, call in the infield, and give a little motivation for the end of the inning. Instead, Sveum sent out the pitching coach. Starlin Castro or Anthony Rizzo can take charge and call for a meeting on the mound. They can help settle down the pitcher by letting him know that if he can get a ground ball, they will get him out of the jam. The last way to right the ship is for the pitcher to throw strikes. Strikes solve almost every problem in baseball. If the pitcher can bear down and throw quality strikes, he can work himself out of the jam.
Four unearned runs are tough for any team to work around, but the Cubs especially need to find a way to limit those type of innings for the rest of the year. So far the Cubs have received consistent pitching and good defense to start games. A few simple strategies can help them avoid the dreadfully bad inning.