It might be ‘tough to watch’ at times, but Seiya Suzuki and the Chicago Cubs are trying to stay patient – Chicago Tribune

It might be ‘tough to watch’ at times, but Seiya Suzuki and the Chicago Cubs are trying to stay patient – Chicago Tribune


Seiya Suzuki was a man of few words late Saturday night when asked if he’d ever experienced anything like playing in unseasonably cold conditions at Wrigley Field.

“No, never have,” Suzuki said through an interpreter.

Was he freezing out there?

“It’s really cold,” the outfielder replied.

True enough, but naturally it’s expected to warm up this week while the Cubs are out of town.

Suzuki is getting a valuable lesson on life as a Cub. When Chairman Tom Ricketts and president Jed Hoyer courted the Japanese star with a virtual reality presentation of what it would be like to play in Wrigley, they probably left out the cold, rainy and windy days we had most of April.

Suzuki got off to a hot start and was named National League Rookie of the Month for April, but his first prolonged slump has coincided with the recent Cubs’ regression.

When the Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 21-0 with 23 hits on a summerlike day at Wrigley on April 23, all was well in Wrigleyville. In the 11 games since, leading into Sunday night’s ESPN game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cubs have hit .182 and scored a combined 21 runs while going 2-9 to fall nine games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central.

Suzuki batted .136 (6 for 44) with no home runs and 2 RBIs over that stretch with 15 strikeouts and only two walks. He’s not the sole reason the Cubs have fallen into the abyss — the rest of the lineup has been inconsistent and Cubs starters ranked 27th Sunday with a 5.30 ERA.

But the Cubs have made Suzuki the centerpiece of their new-look team, as his five-year, $85 million deal suggests.

“It’s a team sport, and even though individually you’re doing well, it doesn’t really help the team and you can’t get a win by yourself,” Suzuki said. “It’s all about staying together as a team and that’s what we’ve been doing these past couple weeks.

“I’m just getting unlucky and I think the most important thing is staying consistent and keep on working as a team.”

After the Cubs were swept by the Dodgers Saturday, walking nine men in the nightcap, catcher Willson Contreras admitted “it’s really tough to even watch, to be honest.”

The loss was their 13th in their last 16 games and dropped the Cubs to 4-10 at home.

“Losing sucks, I’ll tell you that,” Contreras said. ”That’s all I can say.”

After Contreras hit a fifth-inning home run in Game 2 of the doubleheader to pull the Cubs to within two, he waved his arms wildly after crossing home plate, seemingly exhorting the fans to get loud. But he said afterward his gesture was aimed at his teammates, not fans.

“I’m trying to lift this team up,” he said. “I’m trying to do my best to pass my energy to everybody. That’s just me. I’m trying to support my team.

“I know it’s been a really tough stretch, but as I told Nico (Hoerner) earlier, a lot of time we focus so much on results that we end up frustrated instead of enjoying the moment, enjoying just playing baseball. Then the results are going to happen.

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“As a human, you fall into (a trap of) wanting the results right away. A lot of times, baseball doesn’t work that way.”

It won’t get any easier for the Cubs as they embark on a six-game trip Monday to San Diego and Arizona. The Padres are neck-and-neck with the first-place Dodgers in the NL West — the game’s strongest division — and the rebuilding Diamondbacks have rebounded from a 6-11 start to get back to .500 entering Sunday.

Manager David Ross needs left-hander Justin Steele, who is pitching on eight days rest, to show durability after lasting three or fewer innings in his last three starts. Ross employed veteran Daniel Norris as an opener Saturday, but watched him implode with three straight walks and yanked him after only seven batters.

Keegan Thompson appears to be Ross’ best bet at joining the rotation down the road, but Thompson is still learning on the job. He walked three in 2 ⅓ innings Saturday, forcing in a run and giving up a three-run double to Mookie Betts. Thompson admitted he was “going too quick, the game got a little too fast” on him.

The Cubs were bound to go through some growing pains in 2022 after the sell-off of ‘21, so fans will have to be patient with Steele, Thompson, Suzuki, Hoerner and the other young players who figure to still be around when they hope to turn the corner on the rebuild. There’s no doubt it’s going to be “tough to watch” at times, as Contreras said.

But seeing how Ross and his team gets past this stretch will be interesting to observe.

“Obviously we’re losing games and we’re not in a great situation right now, condition-wise,” Suzuki said. “But it’s a long season and it’s part of the season, so we just want to get over it.”


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