By Richard Kagan
Last year everything came up roses for the Chicago Cubs.
They went on a hot streak in the summer and ran away from the pack and practically lapped the St. Louis Cardinals in winning the NL Central. Three game losing streaks? Rare. And, when that happened in the playoffs when they couldn’t get a hit off the LA Dodgers, they got off the heap and started hitting. Against Cleveland, The Cubs were in a big hole, but came back and won three straight to win the World Series.
This team is different. It looked like the Cubs came out of the season’s long hangover in early July to win 14 of 17 games. Their season long flirtation with getting to .500 had come to an end. Now, after last night’s 15-5 win over the Reds, in which Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez homered, the Cubs (62-55) are seven games over .500. They play the Reds three more times and then welcome Toronto to Wrigley. In beating the Diamondbacks on Sunday, the team finally won a series, and then they flew to Chicago for a night game on Monday and came out smokin’, knocking out 17 hits.
I heard a sportswriter in Chicago talk about getting separation, to break away from the middling pack in the Division. It’s time to win two games in a row. Then try for three. That is how you do it. Take it one game at a time, one at-bat at a time. Or, one pitch at a time. Yesterday, starter Jose Quintana didn’t pitch that well. But he did pick up the win against a rookie Cincy pitcher and Drew Storen, who may be on his last legs as a reliever.
Manager Joe Maddon had instituted American Legion Week as another wrinkle at Wrigley. Designed to take pressure off the players in the dog-days of August, he wants the attitude of the club to be “let’s get to the park, a few hours before the game, put on the uniform, and play some ball.” That’s what they do in American Legion ball. He wants the players to feel more casual, to play “baseball as it was meant to be played.” Maybe some players experienced that. Now, some guys are walking conglomerates. It may work and it may not, as long as the Cubs can fashion a win. I am sure the Cubs are glad to be home, in the comfort of the friendly confines in front of their partisan fans.
Now, they just have to try for two.