The numbers were undeniably ugly one week into the season, yet Chicago Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom wasn’t going to overreact.
Every player wants to get off to a good start, but it’s a long season with ups and downs over the 162-game schedule. The small sample size must be accounted for too. So while a 1-for-21 start with one walk and 11 strikeouts didn’t look great, Wisdom did not want to deviate from the work he had put in during the offseason to make a mechanical tweak that involved adjusting his back elbow and timing.
Results are always welcomed, the physical proof that the work put in before games and behind the scenes is paying off. For Wisdom, the production has suddenly come in bunches. After hitting two doubles off the bench Friday against the Colorado Rockies, he went 3-for-4 with two more doubles and two RBIs in the Cubs’ 9-6 loss Saturday.
At one point, Wisdom had five consecutive hits between the last two games at Coors Field.
“From a personal standpoint, it feels good just to have the reassurance from teammates and from the staff, like, ‘Hey, don’t panic, dude, you’re OK,’ ” Wisdom told the Tribune after the game. “So I’m super thankful for them because they’ve really helped me stay on course.”
The Cubs failed to take advantage of the offense’s production Saturday night. Wisdom joined Jason Heyward, Seiya Suzuki and Jonathan Villar with multihit games. Wisdom and Villar (four singles) each tied career highs for hits in a game.
Getting Wisdom on track makes the Cubs lineup deeper. Manager David Ross has slotted Wisdom between the Nos. 7-9 spots in the order in five of his six starts.
Producing power from the bottom of the order will further strengthen a lineup that ranks 12th in the majors in hits, second in on-base percentage (.358) and fourth in OPS (.784). The Cubs aren’t relying solely on home runs, either, to drive in runs. Their six homers are 25th while their 38 runs scored put them tied for 12th. That hasn’t translated to many wins in the last week, going 2-4 since winning the first two games. The Cubs can salvage a series split with a win Sunday in the series finale.
“Hits are contagious,” Wisdom said. “You’ll see that in any team. I don’t know if you call it motivating, I don’t know what it is, but it’s something that happens — we just kind of all click and pass the baton.”
Ross has been impressed by the offense’s consistent at-bats, even if it’s not reflected in wins. Despite falling behind early after Mark Leiter Jr. allowed seven runs in 3⅓ innings Saturday, the Cubs put pressure on the Rockies bullpen in the late innings, combining to score five runs between the seventh and eighth innings.
Ross is pleased Cubs hitters are aggressive in the zone.
“That can scare some teams out of the zone and we can string together a bunch of hits in a row,” Ross said. “We’re never out of ball game, so I love the fact that we fought here being down that many and the guys continue to have good at-bats and give ourselves a chance to win all the way up to the last out.”
Wisdom is an important part of that equation. Sometimes the slumps were too extreme last season, and conversely, when he got hot, Wisdom was capable of carrying for the offense for days. When he starts crushing pitchers’ mistakes like Wisdom has the last two games, look out.
Last season’s success comes in handy after getting off to a slow start.
“It’s a good reminder to know what I’m capable of and not lose sight of that because sometimes when it’s going bad I feel like I can’t hit at all,” Wisdom said. “But once you get rid of that thought, then what I did last year is a good reminder, it’s reassuring you can do this. You can do damage.”