Hoyer thinks struggling Cubs are pressing, still have bright future

Chicago Cubs’ Christopher Morel reacts after being hit by a pitch during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Friday, June 28, 2024, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

MILWAUKEE — From the San Francisco Bay to the fabulous Dairy State, the Cubs can’t break out of their rut no matter the location.

Dozens of small mistakes and one big one added up to another typical Cubs loss Friday at American Family Field. The decisive blow was delivered by Brewers rookie Jackson Chourio, a fourth-inning grand slam that sent the Cubs to a 4-2 loss.

“I think we’ve got to plan on scoring more runs,” said Cubs manager Craig Counsell, who was again booed loudly by Brewers fans. “It takes all areas to win a baseball game and we’re not doing that enough right now.”

Besides the lack of offense, the little mistakes just keep piling up. Ahead of the grand slam, Brewers reached base on a walk, catcher’s interference and an infield single off pitcher Jameson Taillon’s glove.

In the sixth Cody Bellinger lost track of the outs and was doubled up at first on a routine flyball by Ian Happ. It didn’t decide the game, but it was another example of the Cubs’ failure to execute, something president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer addressed before the game.

“I do think everyone’s pressing,” Hoyer said. “You see that, you see guys pressing. These guys are all aware. They know they haven’t scored enough runs over the last two months, so guys start trying too hard to take the extra base, do the little thing to push a run across. That’s human nature and it’s a bad cycle.”

The Cubs lead the majors in players getting thrown out on the bases. A scoring opportunity arrived in the seventh inning when the Cubs loaded the bases with two outs, but pinch-hitter Patrick Wisdom flew out, then the Cubs didn’t get a baserunner in the final two innings and finished the night with 13 strikeouts. They’ve now gone 21-36 since April 27.

“This started out as a funk,” Taillon said. “Now it’s turned into something more than a funk. It needs to change or things are going to change. We’re not winning. It’s just not clicking right now.”

There’s not much to do in the way of changes, since the trade deadline isn’t until the end of July and even then, the Cubs are pretty locked in with their position players. Hoyer defended the state of the organization when he spoke Friday.

“I think we have a good core of veteran players, we have good young players on this team, our rotation has been really good, we’ve got a top farm system,” Hoyer said. “The organizational health, my mindset on Opening Day, was fantastic. I still feel incredibly bullish on those things, but it has been a really rough two-month stretch.

“There’s a lot of really good things happening. I think it’s a danger to sort of paint everything with a brush of what’s happened over these two months. Just as it would have been inappropriate at the end of April to start planning a parade.”

Hoyer admitted he expected the Cubs to be better this season. But with a group of young, top-100 prospects playing well in the minors, it’s tough to feel negative about the long-term future. The current major-league group maybe isn’t the mix to make the step forward.

“The way I said it going into the year is I feel we’re on the front edge of something special and part of why I said that is we’re starting to bring out the young talent we have,” Hoyer said. “I have been very pleased with the way these guys have pitched when they’ve been healthy, that’s been a big positive.”

The Cubs actually took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth on a home run by Seiya Suzuki and RBI single by Dansby Swanson. Taillon second-guessed himself for reaching behind his back for Rhys Hoskins’ slow bouncer up the middle, which would have been a tough play for the shortstop anyway, then the approach to Chourio.

“I think we were trying to pitch for a strikeout there rather than just making good pitches,” Taillon said. “Stupid mistake of trying to make a pitch nastier than it needed to be, and I hang one, he hits it out and that’s the difference in the game. Yeah, it stinks.

“We get the vibes in the dugout up (with the 2-0 lead), then I go back out and give up a grand slam. That definitely sucks the air out of a room.”

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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