CHICAGO – Watching his players reach base but rarely score is already becoming tiresome for Cubs manager Dale Sveum.
And there’s still 151 games remaining.
For as inept as the Cubs’ offense has performed through the first 11 games of the season, it should come as no surprise that one of the worst offenses in baseball – their batting average, on-base percentage and average with runners in scoring position rank 27th or worse among the 30 teams – failed again to take advantage of their starting pitcher’s quality start Saturday against the Giants.
Cubs starting pitchers own a 3.00 ERA with six quality starts in 11 games after a six-inning effort Saturday from Jeff Samardzija. Yet the offense hasn’t shown up. The Cubs are averaging 3.1 runs a game, and they squandered an opportunity to move one game under .500 in a 3-2 loss to the Giants. They left seven runners on base and went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
“It’s hard not to do that because you’re caught up in the moment,” outfielder Scott Hairston said of trying too hard at the plate. “We have been facing good pitching, but we’re good hitters. I think it’ll come around eventually. We haven’t been getting breaks.”
Samardzija (1-2) allowed two runs on seven hits while walking only one, but a high pitch count limited his innings, and he was pulled after 100 pitches. He should have exited the game in line for the win. The Cubs’ wasted a two-on, no-out situation in the second after a double steal that was set up by Alfonso Soriano’s single and Hairston getting hit by a Madison Bumgarner slider. But two strikeouts and an intentional walk later, Samardzija grounded out to end the threat, leaving the bases loaded.
Four times the Cubs’ leadoff hitter reached base, however, they never scored. Dioner Navarro’s pinch-hit home run in the seventh, his second in two games, accounted for their only two runs of the game.
“We had a chance to take the lead a couple times before they scored, which, obviously, changes the game around all the time when you don’t score first,” Sveum said. “We didn’t put the ball in play a couple times when guys were in scoring position. Obviously, that’s the difference in the game besides mistakes on defense.”
Samardzija didn’t condemn the offense after the loss, even shouldering some of the blame for failing with runners in scoring position.
“You can only control what you can control out there,” Samardzija said. “I was 0 for 2 at the plate with a [strikeout] myself, so I didn’t do my part.”
The Cubs’ struggles to capitalize with runners on base can’t continue if they plan to avoid another 100-loss season. They’re 12 for 80 (.150 average) with 24 strikeouts with runners in scoring position, though there's no single player to blame. Of the 15 players to record at least one at-bat with RISP, just two (Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus) are hitting above .200, and the two outfielders have combined for six of the Cubs' 18 RBIs.
“Yeah, it’s a little bit frustrating," shortstop Starlin Castro said. "It's tough. ... We try to get some runs, but it didn't happen."
• Meghan Montemurro covers the White Sox and Cubs for Shaw Media. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Payoff Pitch blog at NWHerald.com and on Twitter@Sox_Insider and @InsideTheCubs.