Chicago Cubs offense awakens in time to beat Mariners
There wasn't so much as a steady drip-drip-drip to portend the floodgates opening for the Chicago Cubs offense Monday.
On a gloriously sunny Labor Day at Wrigley Field, Cubs batters labored languidly through the first six innings against the Seattle Mariners, stranding runners here and wasting other chances there.
Then it finally happened in the seventh, with the help of a little luck.
Down 1-0, the Cubs scored 5 quick runs, with Anthony Rizzo hitting a game-tying single and Kyle Schwarber following two batters later by bouncing a triple off the first-base bag.
One more run on a fielder's choice gave the Cubs a 5-1 victory and snapped a two-game skid in which they were shut out twice by the Milwaukee Brewers.
"Man, we needed that," said manager Joe Maddon, whose team improved to 74-63 and remained 3 games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. The Cardinals beat the Giants 3-1 in St. Louis.
"We needed to have that one break. As soon as it was hit (bench coach Mark Loretta) yells out, 'Hit the bag.' And of course it did. We needed something like that to get us rolling in the right direction. Hopefully that does.
"But again, I'm not going to proclaim anything, We just won the game today."
A couple of weeks ago, there was talk of a "season-defining" victory over San Francisco, but there was no carry-over effect.
Not that Schwarber and the Cubs won't take what happened Monday.
"Contact was paramount there to try to put in a run there," Schwarber of his bases-loaded hit. "I don't think if it hits the bag, I think it still gets in one. But it was able to hit the bag and get everyone in there."
When he reached third base, Schwarber looked into the Cubs' dugout and let out a yell.
"Yeah, that was a lot of emotion there," he said. "Obviously came off the series with Milwaukee and didn't finish the way we wanted to. To be able to take the lead late there and give a little bit of cushion, I was hyped, and everyone in the dugout was, too."
As frustrating as it has been for the Cubs not scoring runs, Schwarber said it's not for lack of caring.
"I wish that everyone on the outside could see the motivation that we have in the clubhouse and in the dugout between innings when we're not scoring," he said. "We believe that we're one hit away every time."
Starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks didn't pick up a win for himself, but he lowered his ERA from 3.47 to 3.39 with 6 innings of 3-hit, 1-run ball. At Wrigley Field, he has a 1.77 ERA in 12 starts.
"Mentally, I'm just a lot better right now," he said. "On the road, I've got to find a way to lock in better mentally and just make better pitches. I'm just making too many bad pitches there.
"Today in particular, (catcher Jonathan) Lucroy and I were locked in. He was so good, and I had to rely on him a lot because I didn't know these guys (the Mariners) too well. He knew them. He played them kind of all year. He did an unbelievable job back there.
"I mixed my pitches well. I used my curveball a lot more. So that was really the game changer, and I've got to try to do that on the road now."