Cubs can't escape script of crushing losses after epic wins

CHICAGO -- They say momentum in baseball is the next day's starting pitcher. That notion fits the Chicago Cubs this season like a glove, as they've seemingly followed their biggest wins with some of their worst losses, including Tuesday's 7-0 defeat to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Most of the time, it has come down to the starting staff, which saw its ERA rise to 4.20 on the season after Jose Quintana imploded against the Brewers. Most of the time wins and losses don't carry over, but a few times a year they can, sparking a team to a run or dropping it into a rut. Getting into that run has eluded the Cubs -- even though they're in first place -- as they've neither won nor lost more than two games in a row since the All-Star break.

The date: July 26

The situation: Rookie David Bote hits a two-run, game-tying home run in the ninth inning followed by a walk-off shot by Anthony Rizzo as the Cubs beat the Diamondbacks 7-6.

Added motivation/energy: The Cubs acquired Cole Hamels in a trade with the Texas Rangers.

The carryover: The Cubs lose their next two games to a division rival (St. Louis) by a combined score of 11-4, as their starting pitchers throw a total of eight innings while giving up 11 runs in the two games.

"You would think after yesterday's game you would see a little bit more offense, but there wasn't," manager Joe Maddon said after that loss. "In spite of what happened yesterday, I didn't see the real bump I was looking for today."

The date: Aug. 1

The situation: In Hamels' first start as a Cub, he leads them to victory in Pittsburgh by a score of 9-2. He strikes out six on his changeup, his most since he threw a no-hitter in 2015. He looks fantastic.

The carryover: Back at home the next night, the Cubs lose 6-1 to the last-place San Diego Padres as their bullpen implodes. Their offense is also half-asleep as another big win is followed by a bad loss.

"We haven't gotten the starting pitching we've been looking for, and we haven't been sharp at the plate like we have to," Maddon said.

The date: Aug. 12

The situation: A pitchers' duel between Hamels and Max Scherzer develops on Sunday, with Scherzer leading 1-0 most of the night. The Nationals increase that lead to 3-0 in the ninth inning and are on the verge of a series win when Bote hits a walk-off grand slam with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the inning. It's the Cubs' biggest win of the season by far.

The carryover: On Tuesday afternoon, Quintana gives up three home runs -- two in the first inning -- while the Cubs get shut out, losing 7-0. Once again, their offense is a no-show and their starting pitcher puts them in an early hole.

"If you look at the lineup right now, there are a couple guys that have been consistent, but otherwise we've been in kind of a lull," Maddon said, reiterating his past comments. "Everyone knows that."

Everyone knows the Cubs aren't playing up to their capabilities. When there is no carryover, when their play is spotty, when there is no consistency whatsoever in the rotation, things become unpredictable and random. That isn't how the Cubs want to finish the season -- not at a time of year when Maddon usually has his teams clicking.

There is one saving grace, and perhaps it's the reason the Cubs can't get on a roll, even after huge wins. First baseman Anthony Rizzo was asked if not seeing any carryover from big wins has surprised him.

"Not in the National League it doesn't," he said. "Everyone is good. You don't see teams streaking in the NL right now with all the competition that's going on."

Count the Cubs as one of those teams.