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Seiya Suzuki, Cody Bellinger close to returning to Cubs' lineup

Ryan Herrera Avatar
May 4, 2024

Without both Seiya Suzuki (right oblique strain) and Cody Bellinger (right rib fracture), the Cubs’ offense has slumped.

From April 24 — the day Bellinger was placed on the injured list after fracturing two ribs colliding with the wall at Wrigley Field — through Friday, the Cubs’ lineup was hitting .214 with a .596 OPS, those numbers ranking 22nd and 24th in baseball, respectively, during that stretch. They’d scored 31 runs (21st in baseball) in those 10 games after scoring 126 (fifth) in their first 23 games.

Before Saturday afternoon’s matchup with the Brewers, Cubs manager Craig Counsell didn’t shy away from acknowledging the offensive lull the team had gone through.

“I think we’ve got some hitters that aren’t on it right now, and it’s coincided with some guys missing from the lineup,” he said. “Is that stuff related? I’m not smart enough to tell you that. But certainly, we’ve got a bunch of guys just kind of not swinging.”

Counsell noted Christopher Morel as probably a recent exception (.827 OPS during that stretch, plus three home runs in his previous five games), though Mike Tauchman and Nico Hoerner had helped pick up the slack with Suzuki out (.958 and .827 OPS, respectively, from April 15 through Friday). Overall, though, the offense had been in a bit of a funk over the last week-plus.

But it seems the Cubs’ top offensive reinforcements are on the way.

Asked about Suzuki and Bellinger’s timelines, Counsell said, “I think next week is definitely realistic for both of them.” He noted Bellinger “may be a little bit ahead” of Suzuki, and he’s optimistic Bellinger will not have to go on a rehab assignment before returning. For Suzuki, Counsell said he still has some baserunning activities to go through due to his injury happening while running to first base. He may be ticketed for a brief rehab assignment before getting activated.

For now, both are continuing to ramp up their baseball activities as they get closer to rejoining the lineup.

“They’re both largely in the same spot,” Counsell said. “We’re just going through baseball activities. More activity every day, making sure they feel good coming out of that, making sure they feel good the next day, and then progressing. … We’re not there yet with either of them. Just keep taking some more steps, but we are getting close.”

In the meantime, the offense will have to try to replicate what it was able to get done in Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Milwaukee.

Hoerner led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run, his first of the season. Two innings later, Morel followed up with a two-run shot, giving him back-to-back-to-back games with a home run.

“Chris, just one swing of the bat putting runs on the board,” Counsell said. “[Friday], I guess, was a solo shot, but then three others [over the last six games] with men on base, just getting runs on the board quick. Christopher’s in a stretch right now. The homers I think for most guys come in bunches, and he’s had a good week.”

Patrick Wisdom, getting the start as the designated hitter after the Cubs optioned Matt Mervis on Saturday, added his own solo homer in the sixth. And then, as the Brewers clawed their way back into the game, he knocked in the eventual game-deciding run with a line drive single in the eighth.

“The at-bat in the eighth inning was a great at-bat, a tough at-bat,” Counsell said. “The guy threw him the pitch that he wanted to throw, high fastball, and Patrick shortened up and put the ball in play. So, credit to him. Obviously, the homer is a great swing, but that turned out to be a huge run and a really, really good at-bat.”

In all, the Cubs pushed six runs across the plate on eight hits and four walks.

It wasn’t all great on the offensive side, though. Immediately following Hoerner’s homer, they loaded the bases on three consecutive walks with nobody out but could only add on one more score. They didn’t take any more walks beyond that frame, and after Morel’s shot in the third, Wisdom had only one fewer hit (two) than the rest of the lineup combined (three).

But the Cubs did enough offensively to withstand a late push from the Brewers. Until Suzuki and Bellinger are back to playing again, more days like Saturday would go a long way toward helping them pile up some more wins.

“Getting Seiya and Belli back would just take that pressure off everyone, because they can do it any swing, any game,” said Jameson Taillon, who improved to 3-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.13 with six scoreless innings Saturday. “But Morel’s heating up again. He can kind of do the same thing when he’s on, and Wizzy’s obviously got some elite pop.

“So yeah, just find a way to score runs and kind of weather the storm until they get back. Just keep finding ways, whether it’s offense, defense, pitching. Whatever it takes.”

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