Cubs doubled up by Mariners
Joe Nicholson - USA Today Sports

Cubs doubled up by Mariners

by - Senior Writer -

SEATTLE — They don't call them the West Coast Blues for nothing, as nothing comes easy when you head out West. The Chicago Cubs (7-6) are finding that out firsthand this week as they are in the middle of a long West Coast trip.

No matter who the opponent is or what their record may be, winning consistently on the West Coast when you are not a West Coast team is a challenge, and right now, the Cubs are just trying to stay afloat. Looking to bounce back from a rough series against the San Diego Padres, the Cubs took to the Diamond Friday for game one of a three-game set against the Seattle Mariners (6-8) at T-Mobile Park.

As you have seen from this offense when they are good, they will score a ton of runs, but when they are struggling, their pitching may not always be good enough to get the job done. That has been the case in the past two games, as another shaky pitching performance, mixed with a quiet offense, led to the 4-2 Mariners win.

Shaky start or not, Jordan Wicks continued to prove he has what it takes to make it in this league and is starting to feature more swing-and-miss stuff than in the past. Wicks struggled with his command most of his outing and had to work around trouble in each of his four innings. For the most part, he managed to escape, but a three-run fourth inning was ultimately his undoing as he allowed four earned runs on five hits in four innings with four walks and six strikeouts.

“I thought the changeup was outstanding tonight,” Wicks said after the loss. “I think it's what honestly got us through a lot of it. So that pitch was really good. It's definitely a positive I'll take, but there's a lot of things still to work on.”

Wicks was asked what went he needed to work on.

“It's just the walks, man,” Wicks said. “The walks are the ones that really drive me nuts. I feel like we've got way too good of a defense for me to just let people on via walk. I feel like I've got to allow our team to work behind me as well.”

The same can't be said about Bryce Miller, who continues to be one of the better pitchers in the league right now. Through three starts, Miller has posted a 2-1 mark with a 1.96 ERA. Although he struggled at times with his command, Miller also found ways to pitch around trouble as he allowed just an unearned run on three hits in 6 1/3 to pave the way for the win.

With the score tied 0-0 in the bottom of the second, Seattle was in a position to strike first as this was the first significant jam Wicks had to pitch around. It all started with consecutive singles to Mitch Haniger and Jorge Polanco to lead things off while a Mitch Garver walk loaded the bases with no outs. Following a brief meeting with Tommy Hottovy, Wicks started to settle in, but a rare hit by pitch did bring home the game's first run and gave Seattle a 1-0 lead. That was the first hit-by pitch of Wicks's young career, which goes to show how good his command typically is.

Apart from a couple of baserunners in the early going, the Cubs offense didn't have much going against Miller, apart from a two-out Michael Busch double in the fourth. Busch had another good night at the plate, and that trade with the Dodgers is starting to look better by the day. Still holding a 1-0 lead in the fourth, it was a rare wild inning from Wicks that put him in trouble as he walked the bases loaded four batters in to set Seattle up with a bases-loaded one-out situation.

Hoping to minimize the damage once again, Wicks wasn't so lucky as the Julio Rodriguez single extended the lead to 3-0, with Ty France adding a single of his own to make things 4-0. That would be it for the Mariners offensively, but given how Miller was looking on the mound four runs seemed plenty.

Although the Cubs offense struggled most of the night, one positive to take away was the bullpen. They did their job shutting down the Mariners offense through four innings, and Drew Smyly and Keegan Thompson played a role in that. Thompson stands out the most, as he replaced the recently demoted Jose Cuas and went on to strike out three in two scoreless frames.

It took the Cubs seven innings to break through, and they did it with a little help from the Mariners. With Nico Hoerner working a one-out walk to give the Cubs a baserunner, new pitcher Trent Thornton uncorked an error on a pickoff attempt, which moved Hoerner into scoring position. Two batters later saw the second throwing error of the inning allow Yan Gomes to reach which also brought home Hoerner to make things 4-1.

The Cubs continued their comeback attempt in the top of the ninth as Busch unloaded for his second homer on this trip and third homer of the season to make things 4-2. Busch is now tied with Christoper Morel for the team lead in homers as he has given the Cubs everything they could've asked for and more. However, that would be it for the Cubs offense as they dropped another game out West 4-2.

Busch was responsible for two of the team's four hits in the game and also picked up the lone RBI. Hoerner and Seiya Suzuki added the remaining hits for what was another quiet offensive day. One player to keep an eye on is Cody Bellinger, whose hitless game dropped his average to .180. Without a full Spring training, early season struggles were expected, but the Cubs hope he snaps out of that quickly.

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