On Baseball: For the Cubs, the Playoffs Aren’t Good Enough Anymore Express News
“Two games in a row and the other team celebrated on our field,” third baseman Kris Bryant said. “That makes it a lot tougher, watching them.”
Bryant, the league’s most valuable player in that dreamy 2016 season, played just 102 games this year because of shoulder injuries. He struck out three times on Tuesday, going 1 for 6. The Cubs had six hits over all and fanned 16 times, going 1 for 6 with runners in scoring position.
That was a chronic problem for these Cubs. They ranked third in the majors in plate appearances with runners in scoring position this season, yet hit just .247 in those spots, ranking 20th. The trend continued in their one-night postseason.
“Yeah, we played that game a lot,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “Believe me, it was on my mind for a large part of it. We had some opportunities, we just could not cash in. They pitched really well, too, but we need to figure that out in the off-season, next spring training.”
The Cubs have 387 wins in four seasons under Maddon, who is entering the last year of his contract. His job would seem to be safe, but you never can tell anymore; three playoff teams dismissed their managers after last season, and on Tuesday the Minnesota Twins dumped Paul Molitor, a year after he led them to a surprise wild-card berth.
Maddon got little help this season from the Cubs’ splashy off-season moves. The team signed pitchers Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood and Brandon Morrow for a combined $185 million, enticed by their hard, sharply moving repertories. Yet all were inactive on Tuesday, felled by injuries, underperformance or both.
Other moves worked, like the signing of reliever Steve Cishek last winter and the summer trades for Cole Hamels, Daniel Murphy, Jesse Chavez and Jorge De La Rosa. But besides a brief uptick after Murphy’s arrival in August, the Cubs simply could not generate consistent offense from a lineup of stars.