Chicago Cubs rally past Pirates for series sweep
Instead of settling for meat loaf Sunday, the Chicago Cubs went for and got the whole enchilada.
Since the disappointing finish to their 2018 season, the Cubs have talked about not settling for two out of three in a series when winning all three is the preferred option.
They rallied Sunday to do just that, coming from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-3 at Wrigley Field to sweep the three-game series.
The Cubs did so with a run in the fourth inning and 3 each in the fifth and sixth to improve their record to 50-43, good for a 2½-game lead over the second-place Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central.
Manager Joe Maddon, who often cites Meat Loaf's "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," noticed the hungry looks in his players' eyes Sunday.
"We had wonderful focus today, there's no question," Maddon said. "The guys had a good look from the beginning. We hit some balls hard for outs, too. We had a nice offensive day that could have been even better."
The Cubs got a 2-run homer from Jason Heyward in the fifth and back-to-back solo homers from pinch hitter Albert Almora Jr. and Kyle Schwarber in the sixth.
Heyward says the players' approach isn't different coming into games like Sunday's.
"No, we've just got to play baseball," he said. "You're going to get everyone's best every game. That's what we expect to have happen. We can't take that for granted. Win or lose, we've got to come back next day and play good baseball. We've got to pick each other up. We've got to stay focused because people are looking for weaknesses in us. People are looking for a break, and we can't give them one."
Heyward's homer was his 15th of the season, a shot to right-center against Pirates starter Trevor Williams. The 15 homers are the most for him since he hit a career-high 27 for Atlanta in 2012. He is hitting .383 with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 5 homers and 14 RBI in his last 16 games.
"Yeah, I would say it's been awhile carrying it this long," he said of the hot streak. "It's just about minimizing the days you feel off, the times you feel off and just keep it pushing."
The big innings made a winner of starting pitcher Jose Quintana (7-7), who worked 6 innings, giving up 6 hits and 3 runs, all in the third.
Quintana settled down after that and picked himself up with an RBI single to short right in the fourth to bring the Cubs to within 3-2.
"Good point," he said of the hit. "I feel great finally. Getting the basehit is so exciting. I put a little pressure onto Williams."
The Cubs went huffing and puffing into the all-star break with 50 games in 52 days, ending with a 3-6 road trip.
If it looks like the break did the Cubs some good, Maddon says it's for a very good and very simple reason.
"It's rest," he said. "People don't want to listen to that because it's way too simple. It's a simple concept. If you're more rested, you tend to do what you do better. If not, you tend to do it not as good. They don't let pilots fly too long. They don't let bus drivers drive too long. I don't like to drive my RV more than six or seven hours. You lose. You lose something. We all do.
"It's one of those nebulous concepts where you just can't wrap your mind around it except it's true. We played well. That's my takeaway. Of course I like that we won, but we played well. I just want us to go out there and play with the focus and play well, play our game. And you can take what happens after that.
"Other teams are good. They're good major-league players. We progressively played better in the series. First game a little rusty. Second game better. Today, I thought, was our best effort."