To a man, the Chicago Cubs realize improving their offense is imperative.
Entering the series opener against the visiting Atlanta Braves on Friday, the Cubs are batting .163 with 59 hits in 12 games while striking out 29.4 percent of the time, a rate that leads the National League.
“It’s something we have to get better at,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “We have to have better at-bats. We have to keep going.
“Obviously, we are going to swing the bats better than we have. I think that sort of goes without saying. But at the same time, there are certainly some things that we’ve struggled with that are carryovers from not just last year, but the previous years.”
Following an off day Thursday, Chicago will aim to regroup against the Braves to begin a nine-game homestand.
Cubs right-hander Zach Davies (1-1, 11.05 ERA) will be opposed by right-hander Kyle Wright, who was summoned from the Braves’ alternate training site to start Friday’s game. Wright, 25, will be making his season debut after posting a 2-4 record with a 5.21 ERA in eight starts in 2020.
Braves left-hander Drew Smyly (0-0, 5.73), who was scheduled to start the series, was placed on the 10-day injured list with left forearm inflammation on Friday morning.
Atlanta snapped a four-game losing streak Thursday by regrouping for a 7-6 victory against the Miami Marlins. After surrendering a pair of runs in the top of the ninth to squander a 5-4 advantage, the Braves responded with two runs of their own in the bottom half, punctuating the rally with a game-ending single by Dansby Swanson.
“I think the biggest thing in those moments no matter who you are facing is just be able to slow the game down, breathe a little bit more and let everything come to you,” Swanson said.
Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. hit a two-run home run earlier in the game, his major-league-leading seventh round-tripper of the season. Pablo Sandoval delivered his third pinch-hit home run of the season, a three-run shot in the sixth.
Braves manager Brian Snitker hopes the club can use Thursday’s game as a springboard as Atlanta begins a five-game road trip.
“We hurt ourselves a couple of times,” Snitker said. “I think it’s just a matter of us grinding to get to where we know we can be. We’re not even close to what I think we’re capable of yet.”
Similarly, the Cubs are optimistic about finding their stride, beginning with better results at the plate. Chicago is averaging a big-league-low 2.7 runs per game and has logged five or fewer hits eight times this season.
Cubs manager David Ross said he felt the team improved its offensive approach despite losing two of three at Milwaukee before the Thursday off day.
“I still think we’ve got some work to do,” Ross said. “We’ve got to put the ball in play a little more. Take our singles when they give it to us. We can’t live and die by the home run.”
Davies, who allowed seven runs in 1 2/3 innings during a loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday, will try for a turnaround. He is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two career starts against the Braves, but he hasn’t faced them since 2017.
–Field Level Media