Seiya Suzuki was a man of few words late Saturday night when asked if he had ever experienced anything like playing in unusually cold conditions at Wrigley Field.
“No, never,” Suzuki said through an interpreter.
Was it freezing there?
“It’s really cold,” replied the outfielder.
That’s true, but naturally it’s expected to heat up this week while the Cubs are out of town.
Suzuki gets a valuable lesson in Cub life. When Chairman Tom Ricketts and Chairman Jed Hoyer wooed the Japanese star with a VR presentation of what it would be like to play Wrigley, they likely left out the cold, rainy, and windy days we’ve had most. of the month of April.
Suzuki got off to a good start and was named the National League’s Rookie of the Month for April, but his first protracted slump coincided with the Cubs’ recent regression.
When the Cubs beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 21-0 with 23 hits on a summer day in Wrigley on April 23, all was well in Wrigleyville. In the 11 games since, leading up to Sunday night’s ESPN game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cubs hit .182 and scored 21 combined points while going 2-9 to fall nine games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central.
Suzuki went .136 (6 for 44) with no home runs and 2 RBIs during that streak with 15 strikeouts and just two walks. He’s not the only reason the Cubs fell into the abyss — the rest of the roster was inconsistent and the Cubs’ starters ranked 27th Sunday with a 5.30 ERA.
But the Cubs have made Suzuki the centerpiece of their new team, as his five-year, $85 million contract suggests.
“It’s a team sport, and even if individually you’re doing well, it doesn’t really help the team and you can’t win on your own,” Suzuki said. “It’s about staying together as a team and that’s what we’ve been doing for the past few weeks.
“I’m unlucky and I think the most important thing is to stay consistent and keep working as a team.”
After the Cubs were swept by the Dodgers on Saturday, walking nine men in the last drink, wide receiver Willson Contreras admitted “it’s even really hard to 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 doubles to bring the Cubs under two, he waved his arms wildly after crossing home plate, seemingly urging the fans to make some noise. But he said afterwards that his gesture was aimed at his teammates, not the fans.
“I’m trying to elevate this team,” he said. “I try to do my best to transmit my energy to everyone. It is only me. I try to support my team.
“I know it’s been a very difficult time, but like I said to Nico (Hoerner) earlier, we focus so much on the results that we end up getting frustrated instead of enjoying the moment, just playing in baseball. Then the results will come.
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“As a human being, you fall into (the 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 road trip Monday to San Diego and Arizona. The Padres are neck and neck with the first-place Dodgers in the NL West – the strongest division in the game – and the rebuilding Diamondbacks rebounded from a 6-11 start to come back to .500 entering Sunday.
Manager David Ross needs southpaw Justin Steele, who is throwing eight days off, to show some durability after going three innings or less in his last three starts. Ross employed veteran Daniel Norris as an opener on Saturday, but saw him implode with three straight walks and fired him after just seven batters.
Keegan Thompson seems like Ross’s best bet to join the rotation on the road, but Thompson is still learning on the job. He walked three bases in 2 ⅓ innings on Saturday, forcing a run and giving Mookie Betts a three-run brace. Thompson admitted he was “going too fast, the game went a little too fast” on him.
The Cubs were expected to go through growing pains in 2022 after 21 were sold, so fans will have to be patient with Steele, Thompson, Suzuki, Hoerner and the other young players who think they’re still there when they hope. to turn the corner of reconstruction. There’s no doubt that it will be “hard to watch” at times, as Contreras put it.
But seeing how Ross and his team get through that stretch will be interesting to watch.
“Obviously we’re losing games and we’re not in a great position right now, terms-wise,” Suzuki said. “But it’s a long season and it’s part of the season, so we just want to get over it.”