SAN FRANCISCO -- After back-to-back shutouts at the hands of the first-place San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, the Chicago Cubs offense has nearly sunk to the cellar of the entire league.
Not that they were thriving before being blanked over the past 20 innings.
“You can look at it two ways,” Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo said after the latest shutout. “That’s how the season is going for us: We stink. Or, let’s get something going tomorrow and be positive about it.”
Being positive is Cubs manager Rick Renteria’s mantra. It has to be with a group of hitters who rank second to last in batting average, second to last in on-base percentage, fourth to last in slugging and third to last in OPS.
Saying the offense stinks might be polite.
“Nobody no-hits the Cubs,” catcher John Baker said half-sarcastically. “That’s what we say when someone gets the first hit of the game.”
In fact, the Cubs haven’t been no-hit since Sandy Koufax did it to them in 1965. That seems odds because there have been some awful Cub offensive attacks between then and now -- and this year’s might rank right up there.
Baker earned the Cubs’ first hit of the game in the seventh inning on Wednesday, though the Giants had taken out starter Tim Lincecum after five. But the San Francisco bullpen allowed only two hits in the final four innings as the Cubs went down quietly.
Even so, Renteria is always looking for small victories.
“We drove [Lincecum’s] pitch count to almost 100 in five innings,” he said. “So we had good at-bats.”
All you have to know about Wednesday’s lineup is by the end of the afternoon the Cubs had five of the nine starting hitters batting .206 or below. Think about that. Including the pitcher, they had nearly five hitters below .200 ... in a major league lineup.
As the Cubs’ offensive numbers continue to sink, the call for them to reach down into the minors is going to grow louder, especially with prospects Javier Baez and Arsimendy Alcantara heating up at Triple-A Iowa and the domination of Double-A third baseman Kris Bryant. Heading into games on Wednesday, Bryant was two RBI’s short of the Triple Crown lead.
“It’s been a grind to score runs more often than not,” Rizzo said.
The time isn’t right just yet, but by July the Cubs should seriously consider some promotions. If last year is any blueprint, the fourth month of the season is where we should see some top prospects. Junior Lake came up last July and he hasn’t been back down since.
It’s a noble thought that the Cubs don’t want to have to demote once they promote. If it works that way then all the better. But plenty of decent prospects have gone up and down from the minor leagues and still ended up having success. And maybe they’ll take off like Lake did last year and never see the minors again.
As it is, this Cubs’ offense wasn’t designed to be very good. So the Cubs and their fans wait for help. The wait feels too long already.