Cubs in for a long second half after getting swept in Arizona

Cubs in for a long second half after getting swept in Arizona
July 20, 2014, 11:00 pm
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PHOENIX — This is part of the collateral damage when the Cubs sacrifice big-league seasons.

There are still 65 games to go until the winter that could define the Theo Epstein administration after accumulating trade chips, creating some financial flexibility and selling hope for the future.

But in the meantime, the next 10 weeks could get ugly. There are only so many times you can scan the Baseball America prospect rankings or hit refresh on Twitter, looking for video of Addison Russell’s latest homer.

The Cubs got swept out of Chase Field with Sunday’s 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, setting the tone for a second half where the front office will keep looking to make deals and shake up the clubhouse.

“It’s just kind of the situation we’re in,” losing pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “We’re well aware that trades will possibly continue to take place and guys will be shuffled around in different positions. (It’s) getting experience across the board, trying to fit guys in and get them comfortable.”

[MORE CUBS: Renteria on Rizzo catch: 'It was the freaking greatest effort']

The Cubs (40-57) are 2-11 since the Fourth of July deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Oakland A’s. They’ve gotten only three quality starts during that time — all from Arrieta — and that stress will begin to wear out a young bullpen and first-year manager Rick Renteria.

Arrieta powered through a stomach virus that made it difficult to hold down solid food for three days. He got through 6 2/3 innings, notching eight strikeouts and allowing three runs to a reenergized Diamondbacks team (43-56) that had looked like it would be right there with the Cubs in a race to the bottom for next year’s No. 1 overall pick.

Maybe someone will graduate from Triple-A Iowa and become this year’s Arrieta (5-2, 2.12 ERA), who clearly benefited from the change of scenery after last summer’s Scott Feldman trade with the Baltimore Orioles.

“That’s just part of the game,” Arrieta said. “That doesn’t take away from our mindset of going out there and trying to win every game, win every series. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re all here to do.

“Whoever comes up needs to be ready to step in and contribute.”

[MORE CUBS: Cubs will take look at Wada and could see Straily in rotation]

It seems like a long time ago, but the Cubs went 15-13 in June, swept the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park and actually had a positive run differential before Epstein shipped Samardzija and Hammel to the “Moneyball” crew for Russell, the 20-year-old shortstop who’s viewed as one of the game’s elite prospects.

“Our job is to come in every day and keep it even,” Anthony Rizzo said. “You can’t ride the highs too high. And when the lows get low, you can’t get (down). You just got to come in and prepare and be ready to play.”

The franchise first baseman showed he’s not simply satisfied with going to his first All-Star Game, crushing three homers over the weekend and making a spectacular acrobatic catch that backfired as the Diamondbacks rallied in the sixth inning.

There are still 10-plus days until the July 31 deadline, and the Cubs could still be busy during the August waiver period. Renteria popped out of his office after Sunday’s loss and sent a message his players inside the same clubhouse where Alfonso Soriano gave an emotional farewell at this time last year.

“I just told them to keep their heads up,” Renteria said. “We kept grinding today, and things will change. We can’t change what’s already occurred. ... All I can do is have them continue to grind. That’s the reality. We got to keep playing.”