ST. LOUIS -- It was a weekend the Chicago Cubs would like to forget -- and that's not just because of the rain/tornado delay they had to sit through on Sunday night. The total delays of 2 hours, 29 minutes didn't hurt as much as the St. Louis Cardinals did in sweeping the Cubs and sending them to New York on a season-worst five-game losing streak.
"Our inexperience showed up this week," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "They're being schooled a little bit."
The Cubs scored 11 runs in their seven games this past week prompting their manager to wonder where their "offensive mojo" is. He believes they'll get it back but not before the young Cubs learn some lessons at the plate. Rookies Addison Russell and Kris Bryant struggled all weekend. Russell was the tying run on Sunday night in the ninth inning, long after the tornado had come and gone in the area. He struck out on five pitches and went 1-for-10 in the series, leaving runners on base all over the place.
"I have to make my zone a little smaller," Russell said. "I'm swinging at pitches out of the zone. The pitchers are doing a good job of executing their pitches."
Russell and Bryant may be talented but they're still just rookies and now they're taking their lumps. Maddon warned of a five- to six-game losing streak in spring training, and now it's here.
"You're not going to be perfect all year," he said. "We've seen really good pitching this week."
And they'll see some more from the Mets starting Tuesday. Maddon was asked if he needs to lighten the mood, especially for his hitters.
"I can't lighten it up any more than I do," he responded.
This is why he is who he is. Maddon has done a fantastic job of maneuvering his team around the longer losing skids, but when your offense dries up there isn't much you can do but wait it out. You can tell Maddon sees something different in his team this week as he usually likes the games to keep coming. But they need to hit the reset button after a brutal month of travel as they limp to the finish line. They'll get a breather on Monday.
"Sometimes you abhor a day off, but right now the day off is absolutely well planned," Maddon said. "We needed it."
Young players such as Russell and Bryant insist they aren't hitting a wall and keep finding positives in their game. Russell says he likes how he's playing defense while Bryant ended his night with a double after earning a walk in his last at-bat the night before. He thinks it'll pop for him soon.
"You can see the inexperience showed up these last seven games," Maddon said.
And the exact opposite showed up on the other side of the field. The Cardinals may have some young players -- such as Sunday's starter Carlos Martinez -- but they're chock-full of championship experience.
"There's no denying they're good," Russell said.
The Cubs got taken to school by the Cardinals and now have to lick their wounds. The Mets are the bigger concern for the playoffs anyway. A wild-card battle is still to be had because a division title feels as far away as an 11.5 game deficit should. And there's no guarantee the sinking will end now. They need to find that mojo Maddon talked about -- and fast. The manager reminded reporters of his March prediction, knowing it would come true for his young team at some point. Maybe it actually came later than anyone expected.
"We're going to lose five, six games in a row," Maddon said. "And we just did."