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Cubs Analysis: The Good and Bad vs. Atlanta; Looking Ahead to the Mets

Outlining the positive and negative takeaways from the Cubs series loss vs. Atlanta before previewing the upcoming set with the Mets.
Chicago Cubs

Photo: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Cubs have not won a series since the season-opening three-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Most recently, the North Siders dropped two of three at home against the Atlanta Braves, placing their record at 6-9 on the season. The series finale poured some extra salt in the wounds of an underwhelming week. It always feels much worse losing on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball, especially by a final score of 13-4.

Let's wrap up the Atlanta series by evaluating the positive and negative takeaways before looking ahead to the New York Mets.

The Good

Remember Saturday? The Cubs homered six times en route to a 13-4 win and made us all forget the way they've played so far in 2021. Both Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant homered twice while David Bote and Javier Baez added one apiece. Four Cubs hitters posted multi-hit performances, leading to a team total of 14 knocks on the day while striking out nine times. As previously identified as a key to the series, the Cubs can be successful if they keep their K/Hit ratio to 1.25:1. While 14 hits to nine strikeouts might not be repeatable, something in that neighborhood should be.

On the weekend, Anthony Rizzo went 6-11 (.545 BA) with two home runs and a triple. Both homers came on Sunday night, marking the first time he has left the yard since April 8th in Pittsburgh. Rizzo has hit safely in all five games since April 13th and is spraying the ball across the entire field. The Cubs need their leader to help pull them out of this early-season funk, so Rizzo's recent hot streak is certainly a positive takeaway.

David Bote roped four hard-hit balls (exit velocity over 95 MPH) on Saturday. One left the yard, another resulted in a double, and two were hard outs. He followed that performance with another double on Sunday. Bote's bat had previously been silent at the bottom of the order, so it was encouraging to see him find some success over the weekend.

Willson Contreras singled in Sunday's game to extend his hit streak to eight games. Over that span, he is hitting 11-33 (.333 BA) with four home runs. Contreras ignited the Cubs offense on Saturday with the first of his two homers. That ball traveled 400 feet to right field straight into the teeth of the wind.

The Bad

Now for the fun part...

Cubs' starting pitchers combined for a line of 13 IP, 18 H, 12 ER, 9 BB, and 7 K over the weekend.

The highlight of the weekend for Cubs starters came on Saturday when Trevor Williams lasted 5+ innings and allowed just one run. He was the best of the three this weekend by far, but that isn't saying much. In a game where the Cubs scored 13 runs, they could have used an outing beyond 5+ innings. This isn't insinuating that Williams pitched poorly, but he let his pitch count skyrocket by falling too deep into counts and walking three Braves hitters.

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Zach Davies and Kyle Hendricks both endured rough outings. Hendricks had about the worst day you could have as a starting pitcher, lasting just four innings while allowing seven runs with six of those tallies coming in the first inning on four home runs. Davies pitched four innings and gave up four runs in his start.

It's highly unlikely that this will become a recurring theme for two dependable starting pitchers, but it was a bad time for two rough outings as the Cubs were looking to get back on track. Overall, only getting 13 innings over three games from your starting pitching is not a recipe for success.

In three starts this year, Davies has totaled 11.1 IP, 16 H, 13 ER, 9 BB, and 8 K. His walk rate is through the roof at 7.15 BB/9 compared to his career mark of 2.62. He needs to get back to commanding the strike zone and relying on the sound Cubs defense to get the majority of his outs. Yes, three starts is a small sample size, but this trend is worth keeping an eye on.

Looking Ahead to the Mets

The New York Mets make their way to the Friendly Confines for a three-game set after taking two of three from the Rockies in Colorado over the weekend. When they clash with the Cubs, here's what the pitching matchups will look like:

  • Game 1: Jake Arrieta vs. Taijuan Walker
  • Game 2: Zach Davies vs. David Peterson
  • Game 3 Trevor Williams vs. Jacob deGrom

Quite frankly, the Cubs must make the first two games of this series their top priorities. They can't enter the finale needing a win against Jacob deGrom to win or salvage the series because it likely won't happen.

In the final two games against the Braves, the Cubs totaled 17 runs, 24 hits, 17 strikeouts, and six walks. Although they lost in blowout fashion on Sunday, the offense was none to blame for the first time this year. As previously alluded to, the Cubs' recipe for success on offense is to keep their K/Hit ratio to 1.25:1, which they were able to on Saturday and Sunday. If they can replicate similar figures in the first two contests against the Mets, don't be surprised to see them heading into Thursday with a chance to sweep the series.

In the pitching department, the Cubs simply need more out of their starters. Their current average of just over three innings per start puts tremendous stress on the bullpen. They cannot expect relievers to cover an equal or greater inning total than starting pitchers if they want to bring their record above .500.

The Cubs bats need to continue the solid stretch they've enjoyed since Saturday and do their best to stay off of Pitching Ninja against deGrom on Wednesday.

This Cubs vs. Mets series will consist of all night games at Wrigley Field with first pitch of each contest scheduled for 6:40 PM CT. Be sure to tune in to the Cubs On Tap podcast for postgame shows plus further Cubs analysis and commentary.