Chicago Cubs Walk Off: Struggling Cubs Keep Winning

Ian Happ's first home run of 2024 was a grand slam to take the lead against Arizona
Ian Happ's first home run of 2024 was a grand slam to take the lead against Arizona / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Cubs struggled offensively last week but the wins kept piling up. From last Monday, April 8, through April 16 the Cubs went 4-4 against some pretty stiff competition including the Padres, Mariners, and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Two of those losses came in absolutely heart-breaking fashion. In San Diego, the Cubs carried an 8-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. In the bottom of the sixth, the Padres scored seven runs and then won the game with a two-run eighth inning. In Arizona, a back-and-forth contest that went 10 innings did not go the Cubs way. After taking the lead, 11-8, in the seventh, the Cubs allowed the Diamondbacks to score a run in the next four innings to win 12-11.

On The Mound

For the most part, the Cubs pitching was solid last week. In two games, they held the competition to one run, two other games they held teams to two runs, and one game they held the opposition to four runs. However, the other three games the pitching staff gave up nine or more runs.

The culprits in the pitching staff are pretty easy to identify. SP Kyle Hendricks is just having a horrible start to 2024. In the Cubs 2-10 loss to the Padres last week, Hendricks gave up seven earned runs in five innings with two home runs. In the 12-11 loss to the Diamondbacks, the Professor gave up seven earned runs in 4.1 innings and two home runs.

Hendricks' ERA stands at a horrific 12.71 on the year, over 9 points above his career average. His 2.24 WHIP is 1.07 above his career average. It is safe to ask if Hendricks' approach still works in 2024. Last season, he led the league in weak contact. Given his style, though, he has a very small margin for error. This year, he leads the MLB in pitches where the ball leaves the ballpark in fair territory (sometimes called a home run).

Hendricks is not alone in trying to find his groove on the year. Jose Cuas contributed heavily to the Padres 9 run comeback. After SP Javier Assad pitched a solid five innings giving up two runs, Cuas gave up four runs in one out. He was swiftly sent down to the minor league system as his ERA bloomed to 12.00.

RP Adbert Alzolay already has three saves and a win under his belt, but he also has three blown saves. Two of those blown saves came in the heart-wrenching losses of the last week to the Padres and Diamondbacks. Both losses came on two-out home runs.

Without naming Hendricks and Alzolay directly, Cubs Manager Craig Counsell admitted to that the pitching just didn't do the job. "We put 11 runs on the board. We just didn't pitch well enough tonight." How long Counsell will keep Hendricks and Alzolay in their roles remains to be seen, but you have to figure he doesn't sleep well before a Hendricks start.

Cubs pitching heroes are just as clear as well. Assad has been magnificent so far this year. Along with his game against the Padres, he pitched another 5.2 innings against Seattle giving up two runs. Assad's ERA stands at 2.16.

SP Shota Imanaga pitched another 5.1 innings without giving up an earned run, preserving his 0.00 ERA. RP Mark Leiter had three appearances last week without giving up a run, which extends his scoreless streak to 10 innings. SP Ben Brown continues to impress subbing for SP Justin Steele while he is on IL. He went six innings and gave up one run. RP Yency Almonte pitched 2.1 scoreless innings last week.

In the Batter's Box

This early in the season, statistics change very quickly. Last week, the Cubs were in the top 7 for nearly every offensive category. Not so much this week. According to, the Cubs are:
- 11th in batting average.
- 9th in home runs.
- 9th in RBI's.
- 8th in runs.
- 12th in OBP.
- 8th in slugging.
- 9th in OPS.

The numbers are still very good and the 11-run outburst against Arizona on Tuesday night helped the cause quite a bit. Until the12-11 loss, the Cubs had not scored more than five runs in six games.

Last week the Cubs had five players batting over or near .300. This week, they have one, 1B Michael Busch who homered in five consecutive games. Last week, the team had five players over an .800 OPS. This week, just one, Busch again.

The good news is that 2B Nico Hoerner's batting average has risen over 50 points in the last week to .259. The bad news is that CF Cody Bellinger is still under .200 (.176).

The reality is that all the Cubs main sluggers including 3B Christopher Morel (who actually had game saving defensive plays last week), Bellinger, SS Dansby Swanson, and LF Ian Happ (whose first home run of the year was a grand slam in the Arizona game) need to increase production in what is turning out to be a very competitive NL Central.

Looking Forward

The Cubs' incredibly difficult schedule takes a break after the series finale in Arizona. Last place Miami comes to Wrigley this week and Boston and the Mets finish out the month. However, sandwiched between Miami and Boston is the tough Astros team.

Consistency plagued the Cubs last year. In some ways, with the length of the baseball season, every team faces a bit of a roller coaster ride. However, to avoid the complete meltdown of last September, the Cubs need to even out that type of wild ride. This week may have given us a clue to how they handle that type of diversity, going 4-4 against tough teams when the offense wasn't completely clicking.

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