By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — No one involved with the Cubs organization is concerned with their lukewarm start to the 2017 season.
The fabric of excellence is still apparent from the 2016 World Series championship club. In fact, 21 of the 25 players who were on the team when the Cubs won it all last season are still present at Wrigley Field.
Spotty offensive production and less-than-clean defensive games have contributed to the mediocre start. The Cubs had dropped four straight going into Tuesday night’s contest. Then, starter Brett Anderson didn’t help the cause with a poor outing, surrendering six runs in 3 2/3 innings.
Luckily, the offense was up to the challenge after Anderson’s shortened 60-pitch effort. The Cubs bats showed up in a 9-7 victory over the Brewers at Wrigley Field that lifted Chicago to 7-7 on the season.
“The quality pitches I made today got hit,” Anderson said, relating back to his five shutout innings against the Dodgers last Thursday.
“Last outing, my pitches weren’t as sharp, but they either missed them or got mishit. Overall, my stuff was better today, based on hits and walks. When I did make a decent pitch in the zone, they were hammered.”
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer looks for some steady progress going forward. His team started last season 25-6, the beginning to a 103-win season. He knows such hot starts are the exception, not the norm.
“April is difficult,” Hoyer said pregame Tuesday. “We are drawing big conclusions on tiny sample sizes. If you are 8-5 after 13 games, you feel good. If you are 5-8, you feel bad. That’s just the nature of it.
“That said, I don’t think we have played the kind of baseball we played last year. That’s for sure. We have been sloppier at times than we were last year. We didn’t do that last year. We were very clean, and we took care of the ball. We didn’t give other teams outs. The offensive part, I have zero concerns about.”
Hoyer proved to be a prophet with his pregame analysis. The Cubs bailed out Anderson and scored nine runs on Jimmy Nelson and the Milwaukee bullpen after spotting the Brewers a 5-0 lead through two-and-a-half innings.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon had a pulse for the game as he watched Nelson pitch early in the contest.
“I felt good the whole time,” Maddon said. “I didn’t think Nelson was as sharp as we had seen him before. It was not unlike the other day when Pittsburgh took one away from us. Looking at the starter, he is really very good, but we were on him. I thought we were going to score some runs. It was a matter of when to get Anderson out and (Brian) Duensing in the game. I had to figure out the rest of the game all in the fifth inning.”
As Hoyer alluded. the offense should be the least of this team’s worries.
Both Kyle Schwarber and Miguel Montero went deep. For Montero, two straight games behind the plate and extra at-bats seemed to pay some dividends. He had three hits in the victory, including the home run.
“He looks great,” Maddon said. “He looks really good. He is a high-end catcher. His throwing has gotten better. His at-bats have been wonderful. He is very confident at the plate.”
With their four-game skid in the rearview mirror, the Cubs look to take the series with the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks opposes Tommy Milone in the series rubber match.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.