MILWAUKEE — As bad as things have gone for the Cubs during their 2-9 skid to finish April, few sequences looked as bad or set a wrong-way tone like the first four batters of the bottom of the first inning of the Brewers’ 9-1 rout of the Cubs on Saturday night.
“It was kind of funny, wasn’t it,” said Cubs starter Justin Steele.
That’s one generous, if not metaphysical, way of looking at it.
The inning opened with an error by third baseman Patrick Wisdom on a dropped grounder, followed by a throw wide of first. After a strikeout, a single to center was compounded by another error, by centerfielder Michael Hermosillo, who muffed the routine bouncer, allowing runners to advance to second and third.
Hunter Renfroe then hit a tapper up the first-base line that Steele gloved and —instead of throwing to first — inexplicably dove at Renfroe on a tag attempt, losing the ball along the way.
What should have been scored the third error of the inning was the second hit. And the first run of the game in either case.
What followed was another run-scoring hit, and then what appeared to be an inning-ending double play — until the Brewers were granted a late request for a review of the play, overturning the call long after the Cubs had retreated to their dugout.
“It seemed like a minute to actually get the review process underway,” said Steele (1-3), who suffered a third straight loss after lasting just three innings for the second straight. “They kind of let everybody get off the infield. Some guys were starting to get ready to hit. …”
He said he was able to quickly refocus. But Steele needed another 10 pitches to complete the inning, a third run scoring along the way.
In all, he threw half his 74 pitches in the first inning, with two of his four total runs allowed unearned, as he continues to try to push through a learning curve the Cubs desperately need to see accelerated if their rotation is to become a strength.
“Today honestly as far as pitching stuff, it was one of the better times I felt this year,” he said. “Back to the first two starts.”
Said manager David Ross, who wants to see more consistency, even under duress such as Saturday:
“It’s just finishing the at-bat, being able to put guys away,” Ross said. “There are times you just see electric stuff.”
The Cubs have committed 10 errors officially in the last 10 games, with at least two more obvious errors that were scored hits — after just one error in the first 11.
“When you look back and you lose games, those are the things if you want to be a winning ballclub we’ve got to be better at,” Ross said. “We can’t beat ourselves.”