3 thoughts after Chicago Cubs’ 14th loss in 18 games, including season-ending injury to reliever Ethan Robert – The Mercury News

Any momentum the Chicago Cubs built up from a series win against the defending World Series champions quickly evaporated.

The Cubs lost for the 14th time in 18 games on Thursday, losing 8-7 to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the four-match series finale.

A five-run rally in the eighth inning positioned the Cubs to earn a series split when pinch hitter Alfonso Rivas conceded a two-out, two-run single to give them a one-run lead. But the comeback attempt did not last even a single pitch. Michael Chavis took deep right-hander David Robertson for a tying home run, and the Cubs eventually lost on a walk-off bloop single in the 10th.

In a terrifying moment, a pitch in the first floor, an apparent medical problem caused Cubs trainers to trek to the bullpen. Cubs bullpen coach Chris Young was stunned during the inning, prompting a visit by coaches including the Pirates’ medical staff, and the game was delayed by six minutes.

After the game, manager David Ross said Young went to the hospital, was examined and would be fine. Ross appreciated the patience of the umpires and the pirates.

Ross said, “In the bullpen you don’t know whether it’s the player or the coach, everything shut down – you see the worry on people’s faces.” “There’s a lot going on right now. The medical staff was on top of it.”

The Cubs (26-44) head to St. Louis with the fifth-worst record in baseball. Here are three thoughts on the state of the team.

1. Reliever Ethan Roberts needs season-ending Tommy John surgery.

The right-handed batsman was one of the best stories to come out of spring training.

The 24-year-old rookie’s camp performance earned him a spot on a major league roster behind a poor slider for the first time in his career. Roberts came down on the injured list in late April with a swelling of the right shoulder but was working towards rejoining the Cubs when his season took an unfortunate turn. He skipped his first rehab appearance with Triple-A Iowa on Sunday after throwing a pitch and alluding to a trainer in pain.

An evaluation revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Roberts needs season-ending Tommy John surgery. The process has not yet been determined.

“Even going back to the last calendar year, what he did to put himself on the map and the reason we put him at 40-man in the off-season is because we believe in him and what he is doing. Maybe, and I think he showed a really good glimpse earlier that year,” said pitching coach Tommy Hotovi. “It’s just unfortunate that he didn’t get the opportunity to really show us what he was doing during the year. Can do. It doesn’t change anything. We believe in that.

“And no matter what the rest of this year, that moment in the dugout at spring training when we told him he made the team, it’s one of those things you’ll never forget.”

Hottovi said he did not have clarity about whether Roberts’ injury occurred on a singular pitch or that something had changed while adjusting to a shoulder issue. Hottowi watched Roberts’ final live batting practice from a distance and thought he looked great.

“What we got from the reports was one of those things,” Hottovi said.

Roberts is the second young reliever the Cubs have lost to Tommy John surgery this year, following a trade-deadline takeover. Cody Heuer had surgery in March. While this is an unexpected hurdle for Roberts, after seeing him at camp and in nine appearances in April, the Cubs clearly think highly of him as both a pitcher and a person. He should be given an opportunity to re-establish himself once he is healthy.

“We have a lot of confidence in Ethan, and he has the real big league stuff in him,” Ross said. “I know he will work hard to come back.”

2. Defensive issues are hurting the team.

The Cubs defense didn’t help their pitcher this week.

After a four-error game on Thursday, the Cubs scored 10 overs in the four-match series. Misquez forced more pitches for the Cubs and gave the Pirates extra chances to attack. Entering Thursday, five players had hit negative runs on the Cubs’ active roster, which was led by infielder Jonathan Willer’s minus-6. Willer, who made a fielding error in the defeat, is also last in the team with minus-8 outs on average. It also ranks him as the second worst among the majors.

The Cubs’ 43 errors through 70 games rank ninth in the majors. Ross said the Cubs need to “close things off” on the defensive.

“We have to keep going back to work,” Ross said.

For a Cubs team short of stars, the fundamentals must be executed. At times this season, notably in their four games in Pittsburgh, the Cubs made reckless plays on the field, including not hitting the cutoff man and failing to feel the ball clean. And considering how many one-run games he has played and been on the wrong side, the defense can be a game-changer. In the case of the Cubs, it is contributing to the loss column.

3. Justin Steele’s slider use is noteworthy.

Steele didn’t hesitate to attack Joan against the Pirates on Thursday.

He finished with a 78% strike rate, largely relying on his slider to try to neutralize him. His sliders contributed to 42% of his 100 pitches thrown at a loss, with pitches significantly higher than his 25.9% season average. Steele got 10 blows on his slider, a pitch he was able to use against the pirates in any position.

The use of a slider of steel is an encouraging development, a sign that he often feels comfortable going at it when something produces positive results.

“I felt like I was putting it to strike when I wanted, putting it in the dirt when I wanted and putting it backwards when I wanted to when you have that kind of pitch command And whether you need a strike or you need something to chase, that’s where you go,” Steele said.

Steele’s pitching line—six runs (five earned) and seven hits in a 5⅔ innings, without a walk and eight strikes—was not entirely indicative of how well the left-hander pitched.

“He was as clean and efficient as I have ever seen him,” Ross said. “His stuff was playing well, the breaking ball was hung 0-2 that cost him a homer. But for the most part, he played really well. We didn’t give him a break.”

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