Focused Cubs take Renteria's message to heart
All was calm, all was bright Saturday at Wrigley Field.
One day after letting his team have it after a sloppy loss, Cubs manager Rick Renteria was his usual sunshiny self both before and after an 8-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cubs snapped a five-game losing streak, getting home runs from Mike Olt, Darwin Barney and Welington Castillo and just enough out of starting pitcher Edwin Jackson.
More important, they looked better doing it. So apparently Renteria's postgame "chat" Friday -- which he got around to acknowledging Saturday -- worked.
"I think when Ricky talks and shows emotion, it means something; he doesn't do it very often," Barney said. "We know he's got our back and is on our side, so when he shows a little fire, it usually works."
Renteria, who didn't want to address the topic of a meeting after Friday's game, was just as reluctant Saturday to take credit for it working.
"I would hate to say that it was because of that today we got the result," he said. "I would just simply say that they all understood and they understand that there's some intensity that's involved and some focus that's involved in playing the game.
"Sometimes you get the results you want. Sometimes you don't. But you just keep playing the game."
It's pretty easy to see why Renteria vented some spleen. His team had fallen to a record of 4-11 after a messy loss, and the last thing the Cubs and their first-year manager need is to begin a downward spiral.
The Cubs are coming off two seasons of a combined 197 losses, and this year's roster isn't exactly overflowing with talent that's going to wow anybody in the National League.
So even though the Cubs figure to lose a lot of games, all the manager can ask for is for his players to put in the proper effort and do things right.
"We had to talk to everybody about everything we've been talking about since the spring," he said. "It takes a lot of focus and intensity and commitment to have a chance to win, not even a guarantee, just a chance. Winning is not an accident. It is a process. It is something that you can put together by different means. The reality is -- whether you believe you're the most gifted athlete in the world or the least gifted athlete in the world -- you better believe in yourself."
In Saturday's victory, the Cubs scored single runs in each of the first three innings against south suburban native Tony Cingrani. Olt's solo homer down the left-field line in the second put the Cubs up 2-0. An east wind nearly blew the ball foul.
"It started out fair, and when I looked back over, it was getting kind of close," said Olt, who has 3 homers. "I guess I got lucky."
Renteria was able to squeeze 5⅔ innings out of Jackson, who earned his first victory against 1 loss as his ERA went from 6.19 to 5.40.
Wesley Wright squelched a Reds threat to end the sixth, and the Cubs tacked on in the bottom of the sixth with help from Barney's 2-run homer and in the seventh, when Castillo hit one with a man on.
Jackson noted the positive vibe.
"When we have games where we just play together as a team in a complete baseball game, we have positive outcomes," he said. "He (Renteria) is in there to get us fired up, to get us motivated, to let us know that he has confidence in us, that he understands the ability that we have once we take the field.
"Sometimes it's needed, put that fire under guys, and I think we're more motivated to go out the next game and play the way we're capable of playing."
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