Belief permeates through Cubs as they turn page to June

Players appreciate manager Craig Counsell’s ability to remain even-keeled. He has that big-picture approach, which is needed during a 162-game season. He’s not a sentimental skipper. Counsell has learned his style and makes it work.

The Cubs, in particular, need that mindset during a skid. They’ve lost five straight series and were two games below .500 heading into Saturday.

After scoring the sixth-most runs in the majors last season, the offense has taken a huge step back. According to offensive wins above replacement, outfielder Mike Tauchman has been the Cubs’ best hitter. In close losses to the Brewers on Thursday and to the Reds on Friday, the offense showed signs of life in the later innings.

“It’s obviously a great trait, just a team that never quits no matter what the situation is,” Dansby Swanson said. ‘‘It’s just one of those things we’re trying to figure out how to bottle up for the first part of the games.”

But the bedrock of the team was supposed to be pitching and defense, and both were subpar. Entering the game, the Cubs are 26th in defensive runs saved and outs above average. Last season, the club finished ninth and eighth in those categories, respectively. Lapses in the field have happened more frequently. Only six teams have committed more errors than the Cubs.

With a team built around ground-ball pitchers, the defensive slippage is concerning. Despite the turbulence, Counsell and his players remain upbeat about the group’s ability to turn it around.

“This game has so many results, and the results continue to come at you,” Counsell said. “It just requires you to know, and we have so many decisions to make, so it requires you to kind of put yourself in the most objective space you can put yourself in. That’s just what’s worked for me.”

What’s troubled this team more than anything is the fact that their best players are struggling. The Cubs have three players above zero in defensive wins above replacement still on the roster (Pete Crow-Armstrong, Miguel Amaya and Swanson).

Until recently, left fielder Ian Happ was on a cold stretch, third baseman Christopher Morel hasn’t had the breakout season many anticipated despite promising underlying numbers and right fielder Seiya Suzuki has yet to show that he can replicate his torrid stretch to end last season.

The Cubs found ways to scrounge up wins earlier in the season despite not playing their best baseball. But now, the bad habits have seemingly caught up to them. After a disappointing 10-18 May record, they hope June can bring about change.

“There’s months in seasons where this happens,” Swanson of the team’s slump. “At the end of the day, all you can do is respond to it. We have a great opportunity Saturday, going into a new month to be able to do that.”

Swanson said the players have had conversations about how to stop the slide. The Cubs seem unified in the belief that they have the ability to dig themselves out of the minor hole they’ve put themselves in.

“Everyone here is here for a reason,” Swanson said. “Everyone here has a specific trait or traits that will help us win ballgames, and it’s just a matter of each person doing that. We’ve got a lot of belief in one another, top to bottom, whether it’s starters, bullpen, guys that are playing every day.”

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