Six in a row: The Cubs are feeling 'unbeatable'


Six in a row: The Cubs are feeling 'unbeatable'

Joe Maddon thinks the Cubs have caught their second wind.

At this point, it's pretty much impossible to argue that.

The Cubs (64-48) pulled out their sixth straight victory Wednesday night, walking off the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-2, in front of 36,438 fans at Wrigley Field.

[MORE CUBS: Cubs searching for spots to get Kyle Schwarber in at catcher]

After Hector Rondon blew a save by allowing an unearned run in the ninth, Miguel Montero ended it with an opposite-field blast to lead off the 10th inning.

Montero and the Cubs were on Cloud Nine in the clubhouse after the game.

"Right now, the feeling in the clubhouse is we're pretty unbeatable," Montero said. "... That's the kind of feeling that we actually get and hopefully it stays there and we keep believing it.

"We got a good ballclub. The young guys are just getting better and better. There's no reason why we should not win."

Before Tuesday night's game, Maddon spoke about how well the Cubs rookies have been playing, and they delivered again Wednesday as Kris Bryant homered and Addison Russell drove in a run with a two-out hit in the fifth inning.

Maddon said the Cubs were like a car that wouldn't quite turn over ("Like my old '65 Plymouth that Uncle Chuck used to drive all the time") coming out of the All-Star break.

"And then, eventually, it turns over, and all of a sudden, guys start feeling it a little bit," Maddon said. "I thought there was a certain amount of mental fatigue post-break. I think we're getting through that somewhat right now.

"And like I said, you put yourself in position, now it's the playoff hunt in September, energy just shows up. You don't have to look for it; it's there.

"So we're looking for that component that takes care of that, so that when you arrive at that moment, you're ready to rock and roll. That's what our guys are starting to get."

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The Cubs had only four hits Wednesday, but they made them count and played some stellar defense behind starter Jason Hammel and four relievers.

"There you go, man: Pitching and defense getting it done again," Maddon said. "I could not be more proud of our guys. ... If we don't play that kind of defense, we do not win it."

Anthony Rizzo made the highlight-reel play, jumping completely into the stands to make a catch in the sixth inning to ignite the crowd and the dugout ("Even old man David Ross was fired up," Rizzo said).

"These games are really helping us get into that strong mentality of, 'we can do this,'" Anthony Rizzo said. "Not that we haven't had that all year, but all year we've been grinding - five or six games over .500. Up to eight or nine [over], then go back down.

"We never really got into a nice little run. Right now, we feel that and everybody feels really good about it."

It was the Cubs' 12th win in their last 13 games. The Cubs gained a game on their direct competition Wednesday, pulling to within 1.5 games of the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first wild card spot and extending their lead to 4.5 games over the San Francisco Giants for the second wild card.

"I couldn't be more proud of this group," Maddon said. "Most of them are young, but they come to play. I think they've gone through that intimidation moment or that 'happy to be here moment.'

"I think they feel like they belong here right now and they're showing up with a good look."

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

News broke to Willson Contreras that the league will be limiting mound visits this upcoming season, and the Cubs catcher —notorious for his frequent visits to the rubber — is not having it.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If you have to go again and pay the price for my team, I will," he said.

The new rules rolled out Tuesday will limit six visits —any time a manager, coach or player visits the mound — per nine innings. But, communication between a player and a pitcher that does not require them moving from their position does not count as a visit.When a team is out of visits, it's the umpire's discretion to allow an extra trip to the mound.

But despite the new rules, Contreras is willing to do what's best for the team.

“There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? They cannot say anything about that. If you’re going to fine me about the [seventh] mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."