Cubs show some life with back-to-back wins
A week like the Cubs just had can sap the spirit.
The last couple of days can show it's still there.
After trading away their two best pitchers and enduring a six-game losing streak, the Cubs responded Thursday and Friday in ways that show there's still a heartbeat.
They came back to beat the Cincinnati Reds Thursday in 12 innings, also winning a staring contest over high-and-tight pitching and what they perceived to be some taunting by the Reds.
On Friday, they came home to Wrigley Field and coughed up two leads to the Braves only to win 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Rookie sparkplug Arismendy Alcantara, who is daring the Cubs to send him back to the minor leagues, singled with two outs in the ninth. He stole second base and then scampered home on Justin Ruggiano's single to left, setting off a big celebration in the middle of the diamond. A season-high crowd of 39,544 witnessed the festivities.
"It's still there," Ruggiano said, referring to the Cubs' spirit after the trade of pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland. "We were probably a little down, a little bit, losing those two guys. They were big guys in the clubhouse. But we've got a pretty tight group of men in here. We all pull for each other. We'll be all right."
The all-star break is just two days away, and after that, more trades are likely, given the Cubs' 40-52 record. We've seen the Cubs to into free-fall after similar situations the last two years. It's the job of first-year manager Rick Renteria to keep that from happening.
"I don't think they're thinking about the trade at the moment," Renteria said. "They're just thinking about playing baseball. I think yesterday actually was a good thing for us because you see that the game is going to continue.
"Change inevitably occurs. We can't control certain things. Some things you can. The things that we can, we try to. I think in terms of the emotions and the ability to go out and play every single day, there's enough to worry about in the opponents and how you're going to play the game than to worry about things you can't really control."
It does help that the Cubs have a starting pitcher like Jake Arrieta stepping up. He got a no-decision Friday, but he turned in his seventh straight quality start by going 7⅔ innings and giving up 4 hits and 3 runs. He sports an ERA of 1.95.
He knows some young help already is here with Alcantara and more is on the way from the minor leagues eventually.
"We want to win here," Arrieta said. "Regardless of the situation with our roster, our clubhouse feels like we can win games. With that mentality and on top of that getting some good players to come fit in here, that definitely helps."