Ross makes all the right moves as Cubs salvage series finale
David Ross made all the right moves Sunday.
The Cubs manager shuffled the batting order with good results. He brought in relief pitchers who allowed no runs and the Cubs salvaged the finale of a four-game series against Arizona, beating the Diamondbacks 5-2 at Wrigley Field.
Or the Cubs already saw Arizona's best pitchers the previous three days and had an easier time against Sunday's mound mix. Either way, they finished the homestand with a 4-3 record and gained a game on NL Central-leading Milwaukee, which threw 10 no-hit innings Sunday at Yankee Stadium, then lost 4-3 in 13. The North Siders lead Arizona by 2 games in the wild-card standings.
The Cubs headed to Colorado on a positive note after dropping two low-scoring, 1-run games to Arizona's best pitchers, Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.
"Sure, it's easy to hang your head or whatever," Ross said, before catching himself. "I don't if it is easy to hang your head for this group, to be honest. That's probably a saying I just spit out of my mouth. I don't believe that, actually.
"This group's overcome a lot of adversity, had a lot of challenges, they've had a lot of narratives about them and all they do is go out and continue to play baseball really hard and put up W's."
The Diamondbacks decided to use a left-handed opener, Joe Mantiply. So Ross countered by batting Christopher Morel leadoff and moved Seiya Suzuki to the No. 3 spot in the order, figuring he had a better chance against Mantiply than a right-handed hitting Ian Happ.
It worked like a charm as Morel tripled to start the first inning. He was erased on a baserunning mistake, but no worries. Suzuki followed with a ground-rule double that scored Nico Hoerner with the game's first run.
In the third, Morel, Cody Bellinger and Dansby Swanson hit 3 solo home runs against Brandon Pfaadt to make it 4-0. It was Swanson's 20th homer of the season, and he's beginning to heat up. By going 3-for-4 Sunday, Swanson has had multiple hits in four of the last seven games.
"It was obviously a grind for a few weeks, might have been longer," Swanson said. "I think the one thing the staff here reminded me of so much recently is just to be an athlete. Go play, because so many times you can overthink it and get robotic. I'm definitely starting to be more comfortable at the plate."
Bellinger seemed to make solid contact, but with a crosswind blowing toward left, his home run barely made it into the front row.
"Wrigley will give and Wrigley will take," Bellinger said. "That's a beautiful thing about the stadium."
Starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks (6-7) left after throwing 82 pitches. Jose Cuas finished the sixth, then Mark Leiter Jr., Hayden Wesneski and Julian Merryweather posted three scoreless innings. Ross made reference to Friday's decision to pull Jameson Taillon after 77 pitches in a 0-0 game - a move that did not lead to victory.
"I'm sure Twitter has a better instinct than I do," Ross said sarcastically. "Luckily, we pulled that one out. Got to call it the way you see it. There's no crystal ball where I can see the future and know Cuas is going to get us an out there and know how Leiter's going to do and how Merryweather is going to do and how Wes is going to do, but you've got to trust in your guys.
"They've been really good all year long and we're going to lean on everybody here down the stretch and going to need everybody. On the back end of a really long marathon, got to continue to push hard."
The Cubs headed for Denver with the rookies dressed in Mario Kart-themed costumes. Ross said first baseman Jeimer Candelario left Sunday's game early due to back tightness.