Cubs fall back to earth after three homers can’t put them past Brewers: ‘No consolation prizes here’

MILWAUKEE – The eighth inning of the Cubs’ 6-4 loss to the Brewers on Thursday mimicked the past week, as the team threatened to break out of their rut and then fell right back into it.

While most of the Cubs lineup has simply struggled this month, Christopher Morel has been unlucky, making hard contact but having little to show for it. But with the Cubs trailing by a run, he drilled an outside fastball the other way at 104.3 mph.

He rounded first base with his eyes trained on the right field wall, and he watched the ball fall beyond it, knotting the score. His celebration was so exuberant he left the ground.

Maybe, just maybe, the Cubs could scrape out a series split in Milwaukee.

Then, in the bottom half of the inning, the Brewers’ Gary Sánchez mashed a two-run homer. And the Cubs dropped the series 3-1.

“We’re in a tough stretch,” manager Craig Counsell said. “When you’re in a tough stretch, it feels like you don’t get breaks. We’ve got to make our own breaks. And we’ll keep doing that.”

The Cubs have lost seven of their last eight games and 10 of their last 13. With the loss Thursday, their record dropped below .500 for the first time since March 30, three games into the season.

The trouble with going through a tough stretch against division opponents is that each loss has larger implications in the standings. On Thursday, the Cardinals (27-27) jumped the Cubs (28-29) to take second place in the NL Central, behind the Brewers (33-23). And the Brewers widened the gap between themselves and the Cubs to 5 ½ games.

We kind of went through something like this last year, and we came out on the other side stronger as a group,” said Cubs starter Jameson Taillon, who limited the Brewers to three runs through six innings Thursday. “It’s tough right now, there’s no doubt. But at the same time, just got to keep going.”

For a while, a team-wide offensive slump was the clear culprit. But as the offense has started to show signs of life, the Cubs are finding new ways to lose. On Wednesday, the Cubs’ best pitcher, Shota Imanga, gave up seven runs for the first rough start of his career.

On Friday, the Cubs hit three home runs – a solo shot from Cody Bellinger in the first inning, the first pinch-hit homer of Seiya Suzuki’s career for two runs in the seventh, and Morel’s long ball the next inning – for the first time since May 4 and still lost.

They’ve only hit three-plus homers four other times this season, and they won each of those games.

“There’s no consolation prizes here,” Counsell said of the offensive improvement. “There’s a game the next day, and we’ve got to do it tomorrow.”

The Cubs built themselves a cushion in April by playing above expectations during a tough stretch of schedule and a slew of injuries. But days before the calendar turns to June, that cushion is gone.

“The hard thing about baseball is that things don’t really go your way,” Suzuki said through interpreter Toy Matsushita. “But it’s just fighting through it. And I think we’re all trying to work together to get those wins little by little. It’s all about staying persistent, and just keep on working.”

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