The Cubs’ comebackability is off the charts right now.
The Cubs have been making a habit of comeback wins all season, but things have reached a new level in this weekend’s series with the Braves. After erasing a small deficit for a win Friday, the Cubs closed a four-run gap in the middle innings Saturday and delivered a 9-7 win to the ecstatic Wrigley Field faithful on back-to-back home runs off former teammate Edwin Jackson in the bottom of the eighth inning.
“That’s a big part of any sports team is that you know you’re never out of it, you know that you can comeback,” manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “I talk about the will to succeed, and the constant execution of fundamentals and technique, that’s what it requires. We’re about that. We played a pretty good game again today, we played well.”
Ahead 3-2 after four innings, things got a little tricky in the top of the fifth, when Dan Haren and Travis Wood combined to allow five Atlanta runs and turn a one-run lead into a four-run deficit.
But the Cubs, the comeback artists that they are, responded immediately with three runs in the bottom of the inning on doubles from Kris Bryant and Miguel Montero.
An inning later, Addison Russell lifted a solo home run to left-center field to tie the game. The home run survived a replay review, one necessitated by a fan reaching over and hitting the ball with his hands. Would the ball have landed in the basket or on the warning track had the fan not reached out? That will never be known. But the call stood, meaning there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn or confirm it.
The result was perhaps the game’s biggest moment, as Maddon suggested afterward.
“To tie the game up is very big. You’ve got to get, obviously, tied before you can win it,” Maddon said. “If that ball doesn’t go out — their pitcher threw very well to both (Dexter) Fowler and (Kyle) Schwarber to follow. So that run might not score, and then they’re going to use their bullpen differently after that. So everything changes based on that one particular play.
“Cub fans, just keep your hands in your pockets till the ball goes over the wall.”
Russell’s homer tied things up, but a completed comeback still required the Cubs to move into the lead. And in something that almost seemed scripted, it was much-maligned former teammate Jackson who ended up providing the team with one of their signature wins of the season.
Using the wind blowing out to left field to their advantage, Montero and Jorge Soler hit solo home runs on back-to-back pitches in the bottom of the eighth. Montero’s was the more important of the two, giving the Cubs the lead, but Soler’s riled up the fans just as much.
Montero said familiarity with Jackson played no factor and that he was actually lucky to do the damage he did.
“When you face a guy that you caught, you start overthinking and try to think along with the pitcher, and that’s when you get in trouble, rather than just think about your gameplan,” Montero said. “Today (against Jackson), I didn’t really see the ball well the first couple of pitches. He was kind of hard to see. I’ve got to say I was really lucky that that ball found my barrel.”
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There was more to this one than the six runs that made up the comeback. Haren struggled again and saw his ERA rise to 6.05 in four starts since joining the Cubs. The Cubs bullpen — outside of the three runs allowed by Wood — was again fantastic, with Tommy Hunter, Clayton Richard, Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon allowing just two base runners while throwing four scoreless innings. Anthony Rizzo had two early RBIs, including one on a his 25th home run of the season.
But in the end, this is the kind of game the Cubs have found a way to win all season. Comebacks and exciting conclusions have helped define the 2015 version of this team, a version so dramatically different than the ones of seasons past.
As the Cubs keep bulldozing toward a spot in the postseason — which would be their first since 2008 — what can the explanation be?
Montero has had a season-long answer to that question: #WeAreGood.
“Today we definitely never doubted. It was just a matter of time,” Montero said. “So it’s definitely a good feeling. The guys know that we can comeback any time, in any situation. It was never panicked. That’s a good sign.
“It’s obviously the mentality, the spirit, the spirit in the clubhouse. The guys, you start winning and your mind changes. You start believing that we are good. And that’s that.”