CHICAGO – If Cubs president Theo Epstein was a little testy before Thursday’s game, imagine how he felt after the team he presides over lost, 11-2, to the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field.
The loss dropped the Cubs back under .500 at 42-43, and it put them 4½ games behind the first-place Brewers (48-40) in the National League Central.
Of all the ills befalling the Cubs in the wake of last year’s World Series title, the most important is starting pitching.
That came to the fore again Thursday as Mike Montgomery lasted only 21/3 innings, giving up six hits and seven runs. Montgomery’s record fell to 1-6, and his ERA rose from 2.80 to 3.65.
For the season, Cubs starting pitchers have a record of 29-31, and their ERA is 4.63. They’ve turned in 34 quality starts compared with 51 non-quality starts.
Epstein was noticeably crabby as he met with reporters in the dugout before the game. If the Cubs are going to stay in the NL Central race against the surprising Brewers, they may have to add one or two starting pitchers via trade.
“If it’s there, that’d be great,” Epstein said. “I think you look at the trade deadline as an opportunity to get a jump-start on the offseason, as with Montgomery last year. If it’s there, that’d be great. If it’s not, we’re not going to force anything.”
Epstein told reporters to do their own speculation as to whether the Cubs are interested in Detroit’s Justin Verlander.
“You can’t put too much stock in rumors,” he said.
Montgomery, who was one of the better under-the-radar pickups last July when Epstein got him in a trade with Seattle, gave up a pair of quick runs in the first inning before he was chased in the third, when the Brewers scored seven and sent 13 men to the plate.
“It’s a tough one,” Montgomery said. “Just wasn’t able to get the outs. It’s one of those games you’ve got to kind of erase from your memory quick, move on to the next one. I’ve got some time in between (with the All-Star break coming up). Stay within the routine. Stay in the plan. Put the work in and just move on learn from it what you can and get on to the next one.”
Kyle Schwarber returned from the minor leagues and went 0 for 4. He struck out twice and grounded out into the shift twice.
The game did have a light moment, when outfielder Jon Jay came on to pitch the top of the ninth for his first professional pitching performance. He gave up only one hit and threw change-ups clocked at 46 and 47 mph.
“Obviously, we’re losing by a lot, so that’s not fun,” he said. “For me to be out there, I never thought I’d ever do that – ever. It was kind of cool to do that. When I look back when I’m done playing or whatever, it will be a cool moment in my career.”