DETROIT – It usually feels like the dog days around the Cubs by now.
But Joe Maddon is wired differently. And the Cubs manager has a different team than the four other guys who had this job across the previous five seasons (and five fifth-place finishes).
So here was Maddon by the end of this three-city, 10-day road trip through Miami, Washington and Detroit that had six different start times that messed with your body clock.
“I really thought it went quickly,” Maddon said late Wednesday night after a 12-3 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park.
The Cubs finished strong, splitting this two-game interleague series with a team that’s won four consecutive division titles. That made it a 5-4 road trip after losing a series against the enigmatic Marlins and taking one from the talented-on-paper Nationals.
The day after getting shut down by Anibal Sanchez, the Cubs generated 15 hits and three-run homers from Chris Coghlan and Miguel Montero. The day after $155 million ace Jon Lester got hit hard again, Jake Arrieta neutralized the Tigers, only allowing Yoenis Cespedes’ three-run homer in the sixth inning.
“It’s a game-by-game situation for us,” said Arrieta (6-4, 3.14 ERA). “Regardless of struggle – or ending on a high note with a victory – we’re able to put it behind us and come out ready to play the next day focused on the task at hand. That’s why we’re able to win against good teams.”
The Cubs (31-26) have already shown something to Theo Epstein’s front office, making it worthwhile to invest at least $2 million in former All-Star closer Rafael Soriano.
Now that the draft is over, look for all the July 31 trade rumors to catch fire, with the Cubs planning to be buyers after three straight summers of trading away 40 percent of the rotation.
[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]
By Thursday night, the right-field bleachers are supposed to be open again for the start of a four-game series against the Reds.
“Even when the stands in the entire outfield weren’t open, we had good turnouts,” Arrieta said. “The fans are always loud, but to kind of surround the field now with fans on both sides, it’s going to be a good feeling. Every time we come home, there’s something new added to the yard, whether it’s a scoreboard in left, a scoreboard in right, bleachers in left or right.
“It’s an exciting time for us. It’s fun to see the transformation of Wrigley starting to come together.”
The Cubs won’t have another off day again until June 29, crossing two games off a 20-games-in-20-days stretch that features four more potential playoff teams in the Indians, Twins, Dodgers and Cardinals. Wrigleyville should be rocking.
“We have to take advantage of winning there,” Maddon said. “If we’re going to do anything, we have to win plenty of games in that ballpark. We got the support. We got this tremendous vibe on a daily basis. We got to make hay when we get back there.”