5/21 Pitching and defense

If pitching and defense are keys to a winning season, and most baseball experts  say they are, then the Cubs are headed in the wrong direction. They rank second in the Major Leagues in batting, trailing only the Cardinals. But they are 28th in the Majors in pitching with a 4.72 ERA, and 28th in fielding with 33 errors. The Astros are the only National League team worse than the Cubs in the latter two categories.

Before Friday’s game against the Red Sox, GM Jim Hendry sounded encouraged by what he’d seen in Florida in the two wins over the Marlins.

“I’m hopeful that a lot of our failures early (are over),” Hendry said before the Cubs’ 15-5 loss to the Red Sox. “When you play well against a good team like the Marlins, and in a place until last year we never had any success … What we have is a lot of really solid guys, team-oriented guys, that are trying to hard to be ‘the guy’ and get something going that maybe they’ve pressed themselves into some failures.

“Hopefully, they proved the last couple of days they could relax, play good baseball against a good team, and hopefully we’ll carry that over here and in a big homestand before the end of the month.”

This has been a long, tiring road trip that started in Cincinnati with two losses to the Reds, including a 7-4 loss Monday that prompted a team meeting by manager Mike Quade.

“We gave away a few games,” Hendry said. “Everybody has them. The two in Cincinnati were probably as hard to take as any ones all year. … I think they’re going to grind their way through it and play good baseball.

“The last couple of days [against the Marlins] should show you something because [the losses to the Reds] … were two we really should’ve had. It’s hard to get off the plane the next day on the road, and they really played good baseball for two days [in Florida].”

Unfortunately for the Cubs, that good feeling didn’t last in Fenway Park. They still have not been able to win three in a row.

– Carrie Muskat 

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