Reeling Cubs start homestand vs. Cards
CHICAGO -- Perhaps the comforts of home will help cure what's ailing the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs (25-27) are two games under .500 for the first time in manager Joe Maddon's tenure as they open a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, part of a 10-game homestand.
Chicago returns following a West Coast road trip in which a 3-3 split might have been a reasonable outcome. Instead, the Cubs dropped all six -- three to the National League West co-leading Los Angeles Dodgers and three to the last-place San Diego Padres.
Cubs president Theo Epstein offered a frank assessment along with some hope during a Thursday appearance on WSCR-AM radio, the Cubs' flagship broadcast station.
"We haven't played well," Epstein said. "Most of our guys are underperforming. We've made our bed, and now we are where we are a third of the way into the season. The only good news is no one in the division is running away from us, and we have two-thirds of the season left."
The Cubs are struggling at the plate with a team .235 average with starters such as Kyle Schwarber (.165), Addison Russell (.216) and Anthony Rizzo (.227) all lagging. Chicago is also having troubles with runners in scoring position, batting just .211.
Yet Chicago remains in third place in the NL Central, just three games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. Moreover, the Cubs are 14-11 at Wrigley Field, including a 7-2 mark in their last homestand.
Chicago sends right-hander John Lackey (4-5, 5.18 ERA) against Cardinals righty Lance Lynn (4-3, 2.93 ERA) on Friday.
Lackey has lost his past two starts. On Saturday against the Dodgers, he gave up five runs on six hits in a five-inning outing as the Cubs were blanked 5-0.
"Obviously, we haven't played great," said Lackey, echoing Epstein's sentiments. "We've kind of been up and down, but we're right in the mix. We got a long way to go."
Lackey is 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA in five career appearances -- all quality starts -- against the Cardinals, his former club. He allowed three earned runs in six innings on April 6, his last start against St. Louis.
The Cardinals (26-25) are second in the NL Central, 1 1/2 behind the Brewers after two straight wins over the Dodgers. On Thursday, they scored a 2-0 victory at Busch Stadium as Jedd Gyorko had his team-leading sixth three-hit game.
Lynn is set for his first start against Chicago this year. He currently ranks fourth among NL pitchers in opponents' average (.199), fifth in ERA (2.36) and sixth in WHIP (1.06). His .139 average against right-handers is tops in baseball.
Lynn, who missed the 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, has a 6-6 record and 4.11 ERA against the Cubs in 16 career appearances (15 starts). At Wrigley Field, Lynn is 2-3 with a 4.76 ERA and has lost three of his last five starts there.
He allowed four runs on six hits in his last outing, a 8-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Sunday.
Updated June 1, 2017