Confident Cubs overcome mistakes to get 6-1 win over Pirates
Despite their season-long dalliance with mediocrity, the Cubs are a confident bunch if nothing else.
Asked before Friday's 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates why he thought the defending world champions could turn things around, third baseman Kris Bryant said: "Just because we've done it before. If you look at the World Series last year and being down 3-1, nobody expects you to come back and win the whole thing. I think that is more impressive than coming back from, I don't know how many games we're down. I think what we did in the World Series is more impressive. I think we can do it."
The Cubs didn't exactly flash championship form Friday, as they had 3 errors, 1 passed ball and left nine runners stranded.
But they did what good teams do: They overcame themselves to win.
The victory once again put the Cubs back to .500 at 43-43 as they chase the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central.
Bryant had a big hand in the victory, as did fellow slugger Anthony Rizzo. It was a 2-homer, 4-RBI day for Bryant, who also tripled and singled. He now has 18 homers. Rizzo clubbed his 20th of the year, a line shot to right in the fourth to give the Cubs a 3-0 lead after Bryant's RBI triple.
Both teams slogged early, as each stranded five runners through the first two innings of a game that turned into a 3-hour, 46-minute tooth-puller.
"Early on, it kind of wasn't the way we wanted -- some errors and just sloppy play," Bryant said. "But they were doing the same thing. It was 0-0. We missed some opportunities. I missed an early opportunity. But we came back. Some good at-bats. Battled. Overcame those three errors."
Yes, it's been a struggle all year for this team to find both its identity and consistency. Much has been made of the World Series hangover.
In the clubhouse after the game, I asked Rizzo if there was any chance the Cubs came into this season believing they could just throw their gloves on the field and think they were going to win.
"We didn't think we were just going to roll out there and win," he said. "This league's too good. The teams are too good. We know everyone in the league is just getting better, especially the Brewers coming into this year. We knew that team was talented. What they're doing is obviously is what they're doing. You can't take any team in this league for granted because everyone's a big-leaguer, and they're trying to do what we're trying to do, and that's win games."
Ever-optimistic manager Joe Maddon said he didn't think it was dangerous that a team could rely on past experience to think it can win.
"I think that's a positive attitude, actually," he said. "It's being optimistic. I believe it's because we just haven't had more than two guys hot at the same time at the plate. Our starting pitching has vacillated, and I do believe it's going to settle in especially once Kyle (Hendricks) gets back. The defense has played better, I think, overall season in progress.
"To be at this point of the year and not get the kind of offensive look that we thought we would get, I think that's where most of my optimism lies."
• Follow Bruce's Cubs and baseball reports on Twitter @BruceMiles2112.