CHICAGO -- When a team is on a losing streak and fails to score for two straight games, the last thing a manager wants to see is a lack of focus.
After the Chicago Cubs' 4-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Friday -- their fifth straight defeat -- Cubs manager Rick Renteria seemed less concerned with his team pressing at the plate than what he deemed a poor approach to the game.
"If our approaches are good, if we're really focused on what we're supposed to be doing, both at the plate and in the field, I'm good with it," a calm but clearly perturbed Renteria said. "Today, I think we were a little sloppy in general."
Renteria was then asked if there was anything he could do to rectify his team's apparent sloppiness.
"It's just a matter of focus," he said. "They know, I think our players know. It's a long season, but I think the reality is good clubs really do grind out every single game. That's what we want to become. I think it's a great lesson, because we're playing in a great division and we're gonna be competing against clubs that have been in the playoffs most recently. Hey, listen, nobody's going to give us anything, so we're going to go out there, and every single day, if we fall short in the way we're supposed to approach the game -- whatever it might be -- we'll talk about it if we have to and then we'll deal with it."
Renteria had no response when asked if he addressed the team about the lack of focus.
After going hitless in 13 opportunities with runners in scoring position in Wednesday's doubleheader against the New York Yankees, the Cubs didn't fare much better Friday, going 1-for-7 in those opportunities. The struggling outfield had a particularly poor day at the plate, with the trio of Ryan Sweeney, Junior Lake and Nate Schierholtz combining to go 0-for-12 with Lake striking out three times.
Renteria pointed to Jeff Samardzija as someone the team could look up to and use as an example of battling and having complete focus, regardless of what's happening around him. Samardzija gave up three runs -- one earned -- and six hits in his seven innings of work, striking out seven and walking only one. Samardzija didn't let a failed double-play attempt that led to two unearned runs in the sixth derail him, working through that inning and then coaxing three straight ground balls in a nine-pitch seventh to end his day.
"I mean, he went out there and did a great job," Renteria said. "Those are things that we can learn from and use to our advantage. It's a tool, a teaching tool. The reality is it takes a tremendous amount of heart and a tremendous amount of focus to compete the way he did. That's why it's really hard to win in the big leagues, let alone in a really good division."
Catcher Welington Castillo echoed his manager's sentiments about his team needing to be in a proper state mentally.
"We cannot come to the park every day and be frustrated," Castillo said. "We gotta come with a mindset [of] just getting better. We're gonna win today, tomorrow and every other day. 'What can I do to win the game?' That's the mindset we need to have. Be positive, because a lot of bad things are happening. Just come every day and play hard."
Renteria hammered on the team coming in with a better approach and stronger focus. When looking around the Cubs' division, he sees three playoff teams and a much-improved Milwaukee Brewers club. As out of touch as it might sound now, Renteria wants his team to have those same goals -- not a few years down the road, but right now.
"Every single year we want to put ourselves in a position to be in the playoffs," Renteria said. "I know for many it's a stretch that I'm even speaking like that, but I gotta start some place and I'm not going to stop. We're going to continue to correct things that need to be corrected and we're going to move forward. The ultimate goal, like every professional club has, is to win, and that's what we're going to keep trying to do."