The Cubs' early-season offensive struggles are well-documented, and their most recent three-game series at Milwaukee did nothing to dispell those storylines.
Over the course of that divisional clash, Brewers' starting pitchers combined for 18 innings pitched, seven hits, two earned runs, three walks, and most notably 26 strikeouts. The Cubs as a whole were only able to notch 13 hits and six walks while striking 33 times throughout the trio of games. Furthermore, three of the Cubs' six runs came via the longball -- a solo home run by Kris Bryant and two-run shot by Willson Contreras.
Here's a rundown of the notable performances for the Cubs vs. the Brewers:
Kris Bryant went 2-4 with the aforementioned home run and a single in the series opener.
Willson Contreras hit the game-winning two-run home run in emphatic fashion to secure a Cubs victory in the second contest.
Pedro Strop returned to the mound in a Cubs uniform with a scoreless inning of work while earning the victory on Tuesday night.
Adbert Alzolay worked 5.1 innings and allowed three hits, three earned runs, and one walk while striking out six Milwaukee hitters. He picked up the loss to open the series, although he didn't deserve it. Alzolay was extremely sharp but lost his command a bit in the sixth inning before Andrew Chafin allowed all three of his inherited baserunners to score.
Alec Mills made a spot start out of the bullpen due to Kyle Hendricks being scratched under an hour before the second game of the series. Mills proved how important he is to the Cubs by going four innings and only giving up two runs, which came by way of a Luis Urias homer.
Up Next: the Atlanta Braves
- Game 1 TBD (probable: Zach Davies) vs. Drew Smyly
- Game 2 TBD (probable: Trevor Williams) vs. Huascar Ynoa
- Game 3 TBD vs. TBD
The Cubs have yet to officially announce their starting pitchers for the upcoming weekend series, but it's safe to assume that Zach Davies and Trevor Williams will pitch the first two games against the Braves. Barring any changes for Alzolay, he would be in line to pitch the finale on Sunday night. The Cubs assigned him to the alternate site in favor of Shelby Miller, but expect that change to be reversed before Sunday.
Manager David Ross and will miss Friday's series opener as he serves a one-game suspension following MLB discipline resulting from the Cubs vs. Brewers drama earlier in the week.
Keys for the Cubs
Putting the ball in play has to be atop the Cubs' list of priorities. We have seen what can happen when the Cubs are able to put the ball in play and stack baserunners. Applying that offensive pressure has resulted in stolen bases and runners in scoring position, but they haven't been able to push those runners across the plate in the few opportunities they've had.
Drew Smyly does a sound job of limiting walks, so it would be easy for the Cubs to repeat exactly what plagued them in Milwaukee. While it may sound like an old baseball cliche, they need to string hits together in order to win.
Although the Braves had a slow start to the season, they tout a potent offense. The onus will fall on Cubs' hitters to provide run support so their pitchers have opportunities to stay in games because Atlanta will inevitably put up their fair share of runs.
From a personnel standpoint, Jake Marisnick, Eric Sogard, and Illdemaro Vargas should draw into the lineup over David Bote and Joc Pederson. It's time for the Cubs to give those players an opportunity to help the team because Bote and Pederson have seemingly hurt the team's chances of winning in the early going of the 2021 season.
If the Cubs can keep their strikeout to walk ratio to somewhere near 1.25:1, they will set themselves up for success. Anything short of that will make it nearly impossible to win games consistently.