Cubs flip the script on Cardinals, sweep doubleheader


Cubs flip the script on Cardinals, sweep doubleheader

This looked like something concocted by a Cubs fan in a dream scenario: The Cardinals melting down while the Cubs catch break after break.

The Cubs (46-37) flipped the script on the team with the best record in Major League Baseball, sweeping a doubleheader from the Cardinals (54-30) with a 5-3 win in front of 35,703 fans at Wrigley Field in the nightcap.

[MORE - All-Star snub? Jake Arrieta proves his worth as Cubs beat Cardinals]

"Our guys were great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "It's not easy to play those split doubleheaders. It really isn't for anybody, especially after a tough loss like that the night before.

"To bounce back like that was tremendous. It's how high you bounce after the fall that really matters. I was really proud of our guys."

Historically, it's been the Cardinals taking advantage of the Cubs' mistakes (which they did Monday night vs. Jon Lester), not the other way around.

But with the Cardinals up 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Cubs finally caught a break (or two) against their division rivals. With runners on first and second, Addison Russell just stuck his bat out and bounced a ball that was just fair down the first-base line, scoring Miguel Montero and sending Jonathan Herrera to third.

Was it magic?

"I think so," Russell told CSN's Kelly Crull on the field after the game.

Cardinals pitcher Seth Maness lost it on first-base umpire Pat Hoberg and was promptly tossed from the game. The next batter, Dexter Fowler, tapped what should have been an inning-ending double-play ball to Maness' replacement, Kevin Siegrist, but Siegrist threw ball into center field, giving the Cubs the lead.

Anthony Rizzo drove in another run later in the inning with a sacrifice fly and Starlin Castro added an insurance run of his own on an eighth-inning sacrifice fly.

The Cubs needed all of those insurance runs as the Cardinals began the ninth against their former closer Jason Motte with three singles in the first four batters, but Motte shrugged off the "here-we-go-again" feeling and settled down to retire the next two batters.

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"When you're able to take two games from a team like that," Motte said, "Especially the way we hung in there the first game and came back in the second game, it's definitely a confidence-booster."

These are the kinds of breaks the Cardinals usually get against the Cubs. Are the Cubs finally over that "mental hump"?

"We're gonna find out," Maddon said. "The thing is, if you stop trying, you'll never know how close you were to accomplishing something. That happens in a lot of situations. You try, you try, you try to move forward and it doesn't happen.

"And then you get to the precipice and do you continue on or do you fall back and say 'I give up'? You never give up.

"With us, it's really rewarding to watch our guys battle through the whole thing. Entirely a team effort."

Maybe Simon the Magician was in the stands somewhere waving his hands and keeping Russell's ball fair? Or maybe it was the duck on the field in front of the Cardinals dugout

Whatever way you look at it, the Cubs walked away winners from a long day at the ballpark Tuesday, doubling their season win total against the Cardinals.

The Cubs are now 7.5 games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central and they extended their wild card lead to 3.5 games over the New York Mets.

Maddon's bunch is also nine games over .500 - tying their season high mark - and they're having a ton of fun with it, between the postgame dance parties in the clubhouse (complete with a smoke machine - "I feel like I'm at a Grateful Dead concert," Maddon said) and the odd occurrences in-game, like when Herrera couldn't find his helmet during the tide-turning seventh inning.

[RELATED - What we learned about the Cubs in the first half]

Herrera was set to pinch-hit for the pitcher's spot, but was late getting into the batter's box and then went back to the dugout during the at-bat to switch helmets (from Mike Baxter's helmet, which he said was too small, to Chris Coghlan's helmet). It all worked out, as Herrera singled and came around to score the go-ahead run.

"That was what took so long - he couldn't find his helmet," Maddon said. "He hit with Coghlan's helmet. He couldn't find his helmet. I mean, how does that happen?

"I mean, the magician was in New York; he was not in our clubhouse. I have no idea how that happened. We might have to consult with Simon. Simon's got the helmet. Simon: Please return Jonny's helmet."

Just another day in the life of Joe Maddon's Cubs.

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Cubs still searching for answers for Tyler Chatwood's puzzling control issues

Tyler Chatwood looked to be turning the corner with his control issues, but alas, he and the Cubs aren't so lucky.

After walking only two batters in a solid start in Atlanta last week, Chatwood had taken a big step in the right direction. It was, after all, only the third time he'd walked fewer than 5 batters in an outing this season.

Those control woes reared their ugly heads once again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in a 10-1 loss to the Indians. Chatwood walked 6 batters and managed to net only 8 outs, getting hammered for 4 runs in the third inning.

"Ugh, it was tough," Maddon said. "The stuff was so good, we just couldn't get a strike."

"It's definitely frustrating," Chatwood said, "because one at-bat, I'll feel really good and the next one, I feel like I'm fighting myself.

"Last time [out], I was able to stay in the rhythm. Tonight, I was kinda battling, rushing rather than staying back, so it's just keeping that feeling and maintaining that."

His season ERA is only 3.74, which looks good until you consider his WHIP is 1.62 and he's walked 40 batters in 45.2 innings with only 41 strikeouts in the process. He now leads baseball in walks per 9 innings.

Chatwood said earlier this month in St. Louis that he's figured out what has led to the startling lack of control and while he didn't elaborate on the mechanical issue, he was working hard at correcting the problem in bullpens.

He's also used the term "fighting myself" at least a dozen times this month alone and it's become a common refrain for his explanation of what's going on. 

"He's got a busy delivery when he throws the baseball," Maddon said. "He's kinda busy what he does with his hands. It's not like he can just change it easily because that's how his arm works, how his body works.

"Sometimes, like you see him the other day, everything's on time and how good it can be and when it's out of sorts a bit, then all of the sudden it becomes shotgun. Ah man, you can see the movement [on his pitches] from the side, how good it is. 

"We gotta harness it somehow. I spoke to him briefly on the bench; I reassured him it's gonna be fine, it's gonna be really good by the end of the year. We gotta figure it out and he knows that. But man, that's good stuff. We just gotta get it in the zone."

Chatwood also admitted part of the problem is mental in that he's trying to force pitches rather than trusting his stuff. He's also gotten into the bad habit of drifting down the mound, though he's not sure when or where he picked up that hitch in his delivery.

Chatwood and Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey are working on slowing his delivery down to get his arm in the same spot on a more consistent basis.

When the Cubs signed Chatwood over the winter, it was easy to see why.

He just turned 28 in December, his peripherals and a move from hitter-friendly Coors Field foretold a potential leap in performance and his stuff is nasty. Plus, he signed a three-year deal at a relative bargain of $38 million.

Once the Cubs signed Yu Darvish in spring training, you could make the case that Chatwood could be among the best No. 5 starters in baseball.

Nine starts later, the honeymoon period is well over with Chatwood, as he threw only 30 of his 74 pitches for strikes Tuesday night and sent catcher Willson Contreras sailing all around home plate for pitches way out of the zone.

Still, it's clear to see there is some intriguing talent there and the season there is roughly 70 percent of the season remaining before the Cubs make what they hope is another run at the World Series.

"I have a lot of faith," Maddon said. "I know we're gonna reap the rewards, the benefits as he figures this thing out."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Marlon Byrd discusses his suspensions for PED use and Ozzie Guillen offers a solution to the PED problem

NBC Sports Chicago

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Marlon Byrd discusses his suspensions for PED use and Ozzie Guillen offers a solution to the PED problem

Ozzie Guillen explains why he thinks Manny Machado is a better fit for the Cubs than the White Sox. Plus, Guillen and Marlon Byrd react to 19-year-old Juan Soto hitting a homer in his first at-bat with the Nationals.

Later in the show the guys debate who had the better rants in front of the media: Guillen or Byrd?

Finally, Byrd opens up about his PED suspensions, relates to the guys caught using PEDs now and Guillen offers up a solution to rid baseball of PEDs entirely.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: