Cubs win third straight, Duffy finds positives in team's transition

Matt Duffy has seen just about everything in his MLB career.

Early on, he played in a World Series and waved at fans during a championship parade in San Francisco. He's been traded, sat out a full season due to injury.

He's also been on a team that made a flurry of trades at the deadline, like the Cubs did this year. Tampa Bay in 2018 made five trades in six days, the most notable sending pitchers Nathan Eovaldi to Boston and David Archer to Pittsburgh.

"At first, it was disappointing," Duffy said. "I was one of the guys left behind that was like, 'Yo, why did you trade all my buddies? We thought we were going to compete this year?' But the front office had a plan in mind."

As an aside, the Rays' plan worked out great. They currently have the best record in the AL.

The Cubs' plan is still pending. Maybe they'll sign some free agents this winter in an attempt to be a contender right away. In the meantime, they have found players who could potentially play roles on the next quality Cubs squad.

Thursday's game against Pittsburgh featured a disappointing start by Keegan Thompson, who gave up a 3-run homer to Colin Moran in the first inning and departed in the second.

In the seventh inning, after Pirates starter Mitch Keller left, Rafael Ortega tied it with a 3-run homer, then Ian Happ added a 2-run shot a few batters later to put the Cubs ahead 5-3. Rowan Wick gave up 2 runs in the ninth, though, to level things at 5-5.

The Cubs finally won 6-5 in the bottom of the 11th when Pirates second baseman Wilmer Difo dropped an infield pop-up, allowing Sergio Alcantara to score the winning run.

The Cubs have now won three straight for the first time since mid-June.

Duffy was actually the first Cubs player to find surprising success, and he was an important piece when the Cubs spent time in first place earlier this season.

Other players followed his lead. Patrick Wisdom became a rookie of the year candidate, Ortega played his way into becoming a full-time outfielder and now first baseman Frank Schwindel went deep in three straight games.

"You're not replacing (the ex-Cubs) with a trash can with a helmet at the plate," Duffy said. "A guy with a bat is a dangerous thing. With the turnover comes youth, excitement, opportunities for guys that have never had it before. You've seen Wisdom and Schwindel are perfect examples of that.

"They get chances that no team has ever given them for an extended look. It was like, 'Sorry kid, you didn't succeed in 10 at-bats. Back to Triple A, next guy's up.' That's not an opportunity. So with that brings a certain level of like every day is a new chance to prove something. That can be powerful for a clubhouse, for an environment to play in."

Duffy's future with the Cubs is unclear, but he has gotten a chance to demonstrate his versatility to every MLB club that might be watching. He's played all four infield positions, started in the outfield and even pitched in a blowout.

"I think after the trades, we understood we were probably going to take our lumps in the win-loss column," Duffy said. "But day-to-day, nobody's here pouting. It's not a terrible atmosphere to be a part of by any means.

"It seems like I'm starting to feel some fans attaching to different guys like Wisdom. Same with Frank. It's sad when a chapter ends, but it's new opportunities for everybody."

Duffy was also on hand when Anthony Rizzo made his last lap of Wrigley Field and when Kris Bryant wiped away tears in the Washington dugout.

"It's tough, Rizzo was tough," Duffy said. "I've been on that side of things, being traded. Especially guys like Kris who have never been traded before. This is the only place he's ever known in professional baseball. That can be intimidating.

"The way I like to describe it is, say you have an everyday job and all of the sudden your boss calls you and says, 'Hey, thanks for everything, we're shipping you off to LA. You're going to get a call from your new employer. They want you on a flight tomorrow at 8 a.m.'

"You're just like, 'I've got a family, I've lived here for 10 years.' That is quite the shock. Granted, a lot of these guys are used to being very mobile, but it can hit you hard. Seeing them go through that is tough, but again, it's a new opportunity for them to make a mark on a new franchise, new fan base and they're all a part of playoff races, which is super exciting."

Schwindel gets award:

Cubs first baseman Frank Schwindel was named NL rookie of the month for August. He hit .344 with 6 home runs and 18 RBI in the month. Schwindel, 29, had 14 games of major league experience before joining the Cubs on July 18 on a waiver claim from Oakland.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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Chicago Cubs' Ian Happ watches his two-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Chicago, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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