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Cubs strike out NL-record 58 times through their first 5 games

CINCINNATI -- It's the kind of mark no offense wants to set, but nonetheless, after the Chicago Cubs struck out 11 times in a 1-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Monday afternoon, the 2016 World Series winners have now whiffed the most times -- 58 -- of any NL team ever through its first five games.

"Contact," hitting coach Chili Davis said afterward with a half-smile. "We'd like to see a lot of good contact. There's some guys, you're not just going to turn them into contact-type hitters. I don't want them to lose their aggressiveness at the plate. We have too good of hitters for me to panic at all."

The Cubs have often said the strikeout is part of their DNA, but they've taken things to new heights early in the season. On Friday, they struck out 20 times in a 17-inning game against the Miami Marlins. Outfielder Ian Happ set a franchise mark by striking out multiple times in each of his first four games of the season. As you might expect so early in a year, there is no panic in the Cubs' clubhouse.

"There really isn't," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "We have a fun group. A good group. We're not going to ride the roller coaster as hard as everyone else outside."

Davis added: "I'm not stressing. We're five games into the season. We were hoping for a fast start. It can still happen."

Rizzo's eighth-inning strikeout with the bases loaded was No. 57 by the Cubs, tying them for the most through five games in the NL with the 2009 Washington Nationals. Kyle Schwarber's ninth-inning whiff was the team's 58th.

"I've talked about it for how many years now?" manager Joe Maddon asked rhetorically. "We have struck out a lot. It has been exacerbated by the 17-inning game but we have struck out a lot. We have to do better. We have to move the baseball. We talked about it all camp. We talked about it the last two years. I believe that we will, but right now, we're not."

And if you think the 17-inning affair skews the numbers, as Maddon referenced, then consider that the Cubs also helped extend that game by striking out so much. It's a cycle they've been trying to break, even going so far as firing their hitting coach of the past three years, John Mallee, after the team was second in scoring in the NL the past two seasons and at the top of the league in walks and on-base percentage. Plus, the Cubs won a World Series under Mallee.

Davis -- who was let go by the Red Sox after last season -- was supposed to tone down the swings-and-misses and increase success in situational hitting, but the Cubs are just 1-for-14 so far bringing a runner home from third base with less than two outs. That's by far the worst percentage in baseball for any team with five or more opportunities in that situation. Of course, Davis will need more time than one spring training and five games.

"Hopefully, no one is pressing but no one is at their peak performance," Davis said. "We are the Chicago Cubs. Guys are going to raise their game against us. I expect my offense to rise to the occasion too."

It's true. The Reds' Tyler Mahle pitched well and dynamic closer Raisel Iglesias was responsible for those final two strikeouts. But the bottom line is at some point this season the Cubs need to improve in those moments or switching coaches wasn't worth it, while bringing back the same position-player base might come into question.

At this point, it's simply way too early to know anything for sure. But then again, the Cubs have also not come close to facing the best on the mound the league has to offer after a series with the Marlins and one game with the Reds.

"I'm not going to make any excuses," Maddon said. "We should have done better but we're going to do better."