Cubs' offensive struggles continue in home opener

Cubs' offensive struggles continue in home opener
April 8, 2013, 4:00 pm
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Tony Andracki

Prior to the home opener, manager Dale Sveum said the Cubs (2-5) have to step up as an offense and start getting some key hits.

They were unable to do so until the ninth inning Monday afternoon, falling to the Brewers 7-4 in front of 40,083 at Wrigley Field.

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At the start of the game, the wind was blowing straight out to center at almost 25 mph. Brewers first baseman Martin Maldonado took advantage in the first inning, dropping a two-out, three-run double in over Nate Schierholtz's head in right field.

By the middle innings, the wind was blowing out only to right, and in the bottom of the ninth, as the Cubs were mounting a rally, the wind was actually blowing in from right field.

"They got four and the wind shift cost us four," Sveum said after the game. "But that's Wrigley."

The Cubs couldn't put together much offensively in the early going, scoring their only two runs on a homer by Welington Castillo in the second inning. But in the ninth, they started chipping away, plating two and loading the bases for Starlin Castro with two outs.

The All-Star shortstop drove a ball to the warning track in right, but it fell harmlessly in Norichika Aoki's glove to end the game.

"I hit that ball good," Castro said. "The wind changed and started blowing in. If I would have hit that ball in the first inning or second inning, it would have been a homer. But even with the wind blowing in, he caught it on the warning track."

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But the Cubs weren't making excuses about the wind after the game.

"No doubt, we had some chances," Sveum said. "We had the same conditions for eight innings. Castillo put a nice swing on the ball, but other than that, we didn't hit a whole lot of balls hard off [Brewers starting pitcher Marco] Estrada."

Until the ninth inning, the Cubs were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. They finished the day 2-for-12 in such situations and are hitting just .136 (6-for-44) with RISP on the season. Schierholtz has three of those hits himself, meaning the rest of the Cubs are only 3-for-38 (.079).

Through seven games, the Cubs are averaging just 2.43 runs per contest. But, it's early. There are still 155 games left to be played.

"We could have been a little more aggressive offensively," veteran outfielder Scott Hairston said. "That will come in time with more games."

Castro already had a pair of opposite-field extra-base hits -- a double and a triple -- before his ninth inning at-bat and said when he initially made contact, he thought he had won the game for his team.

"I feel pretty good," he said. "If we keep doing what we're doing, we'll be good...Everybody feels ready and it's still early."

"Nobody's pressing right now," Sveum said. It's just a matter of getting everybody together."

Castro echoed Hairston's thought, saying the Cubs needed to be more aggressive in the early innings, instead of waiting until the ninth inning.

Four of the Cubs' nine hits and half their runs came in the final frame, when the game was just about in hand.

"We've all been through adversity at one point in our careers," Hairston said. "We just have to prepare for tomorrow. Today, there were a few positives that happened, but there are certain parts of the game where I felt we could have played better. That's just the way baseball is."

"We just gotta keep working," David DeJesus said. "Nothing more you can do. You can't go up there thinking about mechanics. You just have to go out there and play and see what happens from there."