Cubs look to bust out against Cardinals’ Weaver

When the Chicago Cubs won a World Series two years ago, one of their attributes was the ability to work long at-bats, wear down opposing starters and then feast on the bullpen.

That didn’t happen as much last year, even though Chicago repeated as National League Central Division champions, and it certainly isn’t happening lately. Friday night’s 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals marked the ninth straight game in which the Cubs were held to three or fewer runs.

The Cubs hope that trend comes to an end Saturday when they meet their division rivals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in the middle game of a weekend series.

One reason Chicago (16-13) is struggling to score is that some key hitters aren’t displaying the patience for which the team was known. First baseman Anthony Rizzo is batting just .174 with four walks in 97 plate appearances, a stunning stat for someone who has walked at least 73 times in each of the past five years.

Javier Baez and Albert Almora, Jr. are hitting .287 and .286, respectively, but have taken only six walks apiece. Baez, who’s tied for the team lead in homers with seven and leads the team in RBIs with 26, has never been known for being a discerning hitter.

Second-year utility man Ian Happ, who drew 39 walks as a rookie last year when he batted .253 with 24 homers and 68 RBIs, has only five walks in 79 plate appearances this year. He’s hitting .242 and has fanned 36 times.

“Why do scorpions bite? It’s their nature,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to mlb.com. “Why do young guys swing like that? Because it’s their nature. How do you change that? You’ve got to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk … you’ve got to be patient.”

Seeing Luke Weaver (2-2, 5.17 ERA) on the mound for the Cardinals could be the elixir for Chicago’s offensive woes. Weaver has faced the Cubs three times in his career and has been torched for 20 hits and 16 runs over 13 innings, going 0-2 with a 13.09 earned run average.

Weaver last saw Chicago on April 19 at Wrigley Field and was lit up for nine hits and six runs over four innings in an 8-5 defeat. He also took a 5-0 loss Sunday at Pittsburgh, although he pitched five shutout innings before the Pirates got to him for three runs in the sixth.

Tyler Chatwood (2-3, 2.83) takes the ball for the Cubs, looking to avenge a 5-3 loss to the Cardinals on a 35-degree night on April 17 in Chicago. Chatwood allowed just one hit, an RBI double to Matt Carpenter, in 4 2/3 innings, but beat himself by walking seven hitters.

However, Chatwood is coming off consecutive victories, including a 2-0 verdict Sunday over Milwaukee. The former Colorado Rockies player fired seven shutout innings, ceding only two hits and three walks while fanning four.

St. Louis is also looking to get its offense going. It hasn’t scored more than three runs in five straight games, although it has won three in a row, all by 3-2 scores.

“We’re going to have to play good baseball and get good pitching,” Cardinals center fielder Tommy Pham said. “We have to be fundamentally sound. It’s going to be a dogfight.”