Being a pitcher for the Chicago Cubs is probably not the most pleasant experience at the moment, particularly for the starting rotation. It must be discouraging to produce one quality start after another, only to receive precious little assistance from your lineup. This problem became even more severe during a recent three-game stretch.
On Wednesday, the Cubs played the New York Yankees in a day-night doubleheader caused by a rainout the night before. The Cubs put on quite a display of offensive ineptitude, producing a meager total of nine hits while being shutout in both games. Granted, the Cubs did have the misfortune of facing two really good pitchers in Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, but the effort was disturbingly poor. The fact that Tanaka could have potentially been a Cub must have added some additional angst to the proceedings.
Jason Hammel faced the Yankees in the first game, allowing three earned runs in seven strong innings of work in a 3-0 defeat. This is by definition a quality start, but when your offense produces only three hits the entire game, a win is not likely. The second game was more of the same, with starter Travis Wood and two relievers combining to hold the Yankees to two runs, but the Cubs’ offense was again stifled, picking up six hits in the 2-0 loss.
Back in Chicago on Friday, Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs faced the Cincinnati Reds. Samardzija was superb yet again, giving up only one earned run in seven innings while striking out seven. However, this fine effort was completely wasted as the Cubs were able to scratch across just one run in the seventh inning of an eventual 4-1 setback.
While the entire staff must be quite frustrated with the lack of offensive support, Samardzija has been affected most profoundly. Despite featuring an ERA of 1.29 after four starts, Samardzija has two losses and two no-decisions to show for this excellent work. In fact, the Cubs have produced a grand total of seven runs in his four starts, with six of them scored in one game against the St. Louis Cardinals. These numbers only increase the likelihood that Samardzija will be pitching elsewhere by August.
It seems almost inevitable that increasing levels of aggravation will soon materialize if this lack of run support continues as the season progresses. In addition, the pressure of having to pitch every inning with such a small margin of error may start to wear on the rotation. It is essential for the Cubs to begin producing some offense on a consistent basis, if only to alleviate the stress on an already overburdened starting rotation.