Missed Opportunities Are Adding Up For Cubs

The Cubs fell to 39-33 after Eloy Jimenez's go-ahead homer sank them Tuesday.

Chris Emma
June 18, 2019 - 11:08 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The crack of Eloy Jimenez’s broken bat echoed throughout Wrigley Field as the ball sailed toward the left-field bleachers Tuesday night. What followed was jubilation for White Sox fans and a familiar silence from the home faithful.

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Jimenez's two-run homer in the ninth inning broke a tie and lifted the White Sox to a 3-1 win, which marked the third time in five days the Cubs lost by one or two runs. Hours after recently signed closer Craig Kimbrel threw a perfect inning in a Triple-A rehab appearance, the Cubs lost their sixth game of the season when tied or leading entering the ninth inning.

That fact is accompanied by the cloud of 2018, when the Cubs lost the NL Central crown to the Brewers in a tiebreaking Game 163 and were reminded that a division can be decided on thin margins. Now, it’s worth wondering how many more missed chances they can afford to take.

"We're never giving up," Cubs left-hander Cole Hamels said. "We're never down and out. You have to see the type of players we have. We're very talented at what we do, and we want to win. You're always at the cusp of breaking out and doing something pretty incredible and pretty special for a long period of time."

Once again, the Cubs were done in by a lack of clutch hitting and a faltering bullpen. They managed just one run against White Sox right-hander Ivan Nova -- who entered with a 6.28 ERA -- and stranded five men on base. Looking to keep the game tied into the ninth inning, fill-in closer Pedro Strop allowed the go-ahead homer to Jimenez, the former Cubs top prospect traded to the White Sox in July 2017.

Strop saw his season ERA rise to 5.52 in picking up his third loss of the season. Kimbrel should be on his way to the Cubs soon enough -- perhaps as soon as this weekend. He's the $43-million answer to the Cubs' bullpen problems, though not before the relief staff has blown 12 saves in 28 chances.

Related: For Cubs, it's mixed emotions in seeing Eloy Jimenez return to Wrigley Field

The more pressing concern for the Cubs is a lack of offense lately. Save for a 10-run outburst at Colorado last Thursday, the Cubs have scored three runs or fewer in six of their last seven games. They're hitting .243 with runners in scoring position, which remains the worst mark in the NL.

"You ride the waves," Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant said. "When you're doing good, everything's great. When you're not -- it's just one of those times. I'm pretty sure we'll get out of it. All the talent we have here is pretty good.

"There's no concern on our part."

While the Cubs are plenty confident in their own ability, they were disappointed by another poor performance at the plate. Hamels noted that many of his teammates went from the home dugout straight to the video room to watch their at-bats and figure out what went wrong.

Kyle Schwarber led off the game with a first-pitch home run to left-center field, but that was it for the Cubs' lineup. They were held in check by Nova and the White Sox bullpen, their latest unfulfilling night at the plate.

"Keep grinding things out," Schwarber said. "Things are going to turn. There's no doubt. Things are going to turn. 

"We'll be fine. We're going to figure it out. Don't worry about it. We'll be good."

Fortunately for the Cubs, the NL Central-leading Brewers haven't played their best baseball either. Chicago remained just a half-game back of Milwaukee as it lost a late game in San Diego. 

But the Cubs know well this division could come down to the last day of the regular season once again. They hope for better ahead -- and that these missed opportunities don't end their season early once again.

"We just stay with each other," Hamels said. "Stay within ourselves and see what we can do tomorrow."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.