Maybe the Cubs are never out of it, as Anthony Rizzo keeps saying.
But they might soon be out of players if this rate of attrition keeps up.
Exactly one week after a collision that landed center fielder Ian Happ and infielder Nico Hoerner on the injured list, two more Cubs outfielders went down during a 6-5 loss to the Pirates on Sunday at Wrigley Field.
A hamstring injury that looks certain to put Jake Marisnick on the IL and hand injury that kept Jason Heyward from batting in the ninth put a serious damper on an otherwise feel-good vibe of a 5-1 homestand against the Dodgers and Pirates that came up just short of a six-game sweep after the Cubs rallied for three runs in the ninth Sunday.
The weeklong surge put the Cubs back at .500 heading into five-game road trip to Cleveland and Detroit.
But even with two of the next four days off, the latest injuries put increasing strain on a roster already without five players who went on the IL during an eight-day stretch starting April 30.
Heyward was being checked for unspecified pain in his right hand Sunday, manager David Ross, and his status for Tuesday was uncertain.
Marisnick’s “pretty good hamstring strain” will be further evaluated with an MRI, but an IL move looks as certain as the loss that will leave for an already injury-thinned outfield.
“It’s tough losing Jake there, especially just his attitude and what he brings every day and his energy,” Rizzo said. “But we’ve we’ve just got to keep playing.”
Marisnick, the strong-fielding fourth outfielder, has a .973 OPS in part-time play that has increased in recent weeks.
“He’s somebody that is a spark plug when he’s out there, especially against lefties,” Ross said. “He’s a big part of this team, and hopefully he’s not out too long.”
How they replace him even in terms of a roster move could require a tough 40-man roster move unless they choose to play short-handed during the two-game series in Cleveland, ahead of another off day Thursday.
Happ and Hoerner both are ineligible to return before Friday — when the Cubs’ best pitcher in April, Jake Arrieta, also can return from the IL (for a cut on his thumb).
And the Cubs don’t have a position player at Triple-A Iowa on the 40-man roster. Veteran Cameron Maybin, for instance, would require a corresponding move to clear a spot on the full 40-man roster.
The good news for the Cubs: Shortstop Javy Báez — who came off the bench in the ninth with a chance to win the game before grounding out on a 3-2 pitch — is expected to return to the lineup Tuesday after some precautionary down time for a stiff back.
And left fielder Joc Pederson, who entered the game Sunday when Marisnick went down in the top of the first inning, has looked especially good since returning from his own IL stint this past week — producing his second three-hit game in three days Sunday, including a two-out, run-scoring single during the ninth inning rally.
“Kind of an ambush day for him,” Ross said. “His swing looks good.”
The third-place Cubs are 3 1/2 games out of first place as they take Monday off, thanks to a frigid homestand that included a two-day, three-game sweep of the defending-champion Dodgers (after a rainout Monday) and first set of back-to-back series wins of the seasons.
“We played really well, won some close ballgames, won some tough ballgames,” Ross said. “The elements were probably some of the tougher elements consecutively that I feel like I’ve been a part of as manager my short time. Extremely cold, which can wear you out over and over again. But our guys had great at-bats, fought when we were down, played good baseball. And the pitching bounced back this homestand.”