'Mentally Lethargic' Cubs Cap Homestand With Familiar Mistakes

The Cubs were let down by starting pitching and miscues in a 6-5 loss to the Braves.

Chris Emma
May 14, 2018 - 5:09 pm
Braves shortstop Charlie Culberson (16) is caught stealing by Cubs second baseman Javier Baez.

Matt Marton/USA Today Sports

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By Chris Emma--

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- It was a week ago Monday afternoon that Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein predicted his team would be ready to bounce back from a sluggish start to the season amid the upcoming seven-game homestand.

The Cubs finished this stretch with a 6-5 loss to the Braves at Wrigley Field in a Monday makeup game, capping the recent homestand at 5-2. While the recency bias associated with two losses after five wins lends to frustration, Monday was also a microcosm of the inconsistencies that have hindered the Cubs in the first quarter of their season. 

Left-hander Jose Quintana lasted just 4 2/3 innings, allowing six earned runs and three homers. As seven games await in the next six days for the Cubs, Quintana forced manager Joe Maddon into the bullpen early -- even after Maddon allowed Quintana to go deeper than he should have.

The Cubs have just 17 quality starts -- at least six innings with three or fewer earned runs allowed -- in their 38 games thus far.

"We need to get our starters more deeper into the games," Maddon said.

Maddon was quick to credit the bullpen effort, which produced 4 1/3 innings of no-hit baseball and gave the Cubs a chance. 

With the fans standing on their feet in the ninth inning, Kris Bryant ripped a ball hard but right at Braves left fielder Ronald Acuna Jr., ending the Cubs' two-out, bases-loaded rally a run short. It was a point of pride that the Cubs kept fighting -- especially with a tough stretch of travel ahead -- but Maddon looked toward the miscues beforehand.

After Bryant hit a two-run homer in the third, which gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead, Anthony Rizzo walked and advanced to second base but was later picked off. In the sixth, Ben Zobrist reached on a single but was doubled off first base when Braves center fielder Ender Inciarte made a sliding catch and fired behind Zobrist.

Maddon called it a "mentally lethargic game" in reference to some of the Cubs' mistakes that ultimately proved to be costly. Outfielder Albert Almora Jr., who homered and drove in two runs, cited too much effort as detracting from the Cubs' focus.

"This game is so hard, and guys are so focused and so locked in," Almora said. "Guys are trying to take the next base, trying to score, trying to get in there. It's part of it, it's part of it.

"We're so locked in, so focused to the last drop. We could've easily been like, 'You know what? Whatever, we'll get them in Atlanta.'

"We fight, and we keep fighting."

The Cubs and Braves will both hop on their respective charters and head down to Atlanta for the originally scheduled three-game set at SunTrust Park that starts Tuesday evening.

What the Cubs hope for is that the mistakes that squandered the good vibes of their homestand -- and which are far too familiar this season -- don't follow them on the road.

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