After getting to Sale, Cubs still waiting for luck to turn

After getting to Sale, Cubs still waiting for luck to turn

May 28, 2013, 11:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

As lightning flashed alarmingly close to U.S. Cellular Field Tuesday night, the Cubs escaped the South Side unharmed, but feeling a little snake-bitten. 

Every time things start going well for the Cubs, something happens to halt them in their tracks.

Before the Crosstown opener on Memorial Day, general manager Jed Hoyer discussed how the Cubs felt things were going good in the seventh inning of the series finale with the Mets May 19. 

On that Sunday at Wrigley Field, the Cubs were staring down a third straight series win and an eighth victory in 12 games, but a pair of late Mets homers doomed Travis Wood and Co.

That started a stretch of six straight losses before the Cubs finally snapped it with an extra-innings victory in Cincinnati Sunday. A dominant 7-0 victory over the White Sox Monday followed, and the Cubs then jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on Chris Sale and their South Side counterparts Tuesday evening.

[RELATED: Cubs break out the bats against South Side rivals]

Welington Castillo drilled a two-run homer in the second inning and Edwin Jackson retired seven of the first eight batters he faced before the storms hit and the game was washed out.

"When you're having a season like I'm having, that's just how it is," Jackson said.

No make-up date has been announced, though June 24 may be a fit for both teams. A crazy day-night doubleheader on Wednesday or Thursday is not an option, especially with members of both teams anxiously awaiting a chance to attend Blackhawks-Red Wings Game 7 at the United Center.

"You hate to waste any time you get up 2-0 against a pitcher like Sale," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Too bad the game has to get canceled that quick. We knew that rain was coming."

The Cubs entered the series struggling against left-handed pitchers, but beat up Jose Quintana in the opener and jumped on Sale early. Through the first 10 innings of the Crosstown series (though the final three innings don't count), the Cubs had scored nine runs and the nature vs. nurture rheotric about changing a hitter's style had become a moot point.

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"For the most part, the lefties we've faced this year have been on top of their game," veteran outfielder Scott Hairston said. "It just seems like there's a pattern going on. For some strange reason, most of the lefties we've faced have an ERA in the low 2.00s. That's not making it any easier."

"As hitters, we need to do a better job against those pitchers. This is the big leagues. If a pitcher is on his stuff, if he has a scouting report against the hitters that tells him to place a ball here and he's making his pitches, then advantage to the pitcher. That's -- in a nutshell -- the reason why we haven't had as much success against lefties this year."

On the one hand, the Cubs could look at it as a stroke of good fortune to miss Chris Sale in the Crosstown series. On the other, the two quick runs were an encouraging sign, especially considering Sale was coming off minor shoulder tendinitis that forced him to miss his last start.

Hairston, who entered play Tuesday hitting just .102 against left-handed pitchers, finally broke through with a double off Sale in the second inning, but saw his stat boost evaporate when the sky opened up into a downpour 10 minutes later.

Before the Crosstown series started, Hairston was upbeat, talking about how nice it was for him to know he would get consistent playing time with the White Sox trotting out three straight southpaws. Tuesday's rainout may put a damper on his groove, but at least he has one hard-hit ball to build off of.

"Hitting is timing and when you don't have your timing, it's hard to be successful," Hairston said. "I just try to do the best I can when I'm in there. I'm hard on myself as it is. I try not to be because certain parts of the game you can't control.

"At times, you just have to do the best you can. I've done my preparation. I've watched a lot of video and spent my time in the cage. I feel good and it's still very early."

[MORE: Do Cubs need to give Samardzija a wake-up call?]

Hairston turned 33 last Saturday and was signed to provide some right-handed punch to the Cubs' lineup against left-handed starters. Hoyer admitted Monday at some point in a player's career, a hitter is what he is, which means Hairston, a 10-year veteran, may not be changing any time soon.

So you have to figure his .438 OPS against lefties this season figures to improve more toward his career .807 OPS mark against southpaws.

If Hairston turns things around, it may not come in enough time for him to be a part of the looming summer sell-off as the Cubs currently hold a 20-30 record. They may only have a -5 run differential, but as Hoyer says, "you are what your record says you are."

The Cubs have seen their division rival Cardinals rise above adversity to find their way into the playoff hunt season after season and are doing it again in 2013. 

Call it a "Cubbie occurrence" or declare the Cubs are snake-bitten, but luck certainly does play into the game one way or another.