Cubs

Cubs flip the script on Cardinals, sweep doubleheader

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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.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

"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.

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

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USA TODAY

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

A few weeks after the we (the Cubs) were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs, I got a phone call from my college professor. Since it was officially the off-season, I was in the early stages of a break from following a pocket schedule to tell me where to be every day for nearly eight months.

But this was a man I could not refuse. I chose my college major to go into his field of transportation engineering and he was calling because he needed a teaching assistant to accompany him on his trip to South Africa.

One minute I could barely move off of my couch in my Chicago apartment after losing Game 7 against the Marlins. The next minute, I would be standing within miles of the Southern most point in Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Why not? I needed the distraction so I agreed to go.

The offseason is its own transition. Leaving the regimen of routine, of batting practice and bus times, to an open ended world that you have to re-learn again. When I finished my first full major league season in 1997, I lived in Streeterville at the Navy Pier Apartments.

That offseason, I decided to stay an extra month in Chicago only to wake up panicked for the first two weeks because I thought I was missing stretch time for a home day game. A major league schedule becomes etched in your DNA after a while.

It is also a time that you get to reflect. The regular season does not give you a moment to really get perspective on what was just accomplished, what it all means, what you would change. I always joked about the T-shirt I wanted to a sell that listed all of the things a major league player figures out during the off-season. From the perfect swing to the ex-girlfriend you need to un-break-up with next week.

It all becomes so clear when a 96 MPH fastball isn’t coming at you.

For years, I would arrange a training program to follow, but I quickly learned that I had to mix it up. There was only so much repetition I could stand in the off-season. So some years, I moved to the site of spring training and worked out early with the staff, other years I found a spot at home where I grew up or wherever I played during the season, to train.

I was single when I played, but now with a family, I have a better understanding of the challenges my teammates would express as they were re-engaging as a daily father again after this long absentee existence.

To keep it fresh and spicy, when I got older in the game, I enrolled in a dance studio and took a winter of dance lessons. Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, you name it. On Thursdays we had to dance for an hour straight, changing partners in the room every song change. Dancing with the Stars had nothing on me.

Of course, not every offseason is fun and games. There were years when I wasn’t sure I would have a job the next year, or I was in the throes of a trade rumor. In 1997, I was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies two days before Christmas. In 2002, my father passed away on the last game of the season, leading the offseason to be a time of mourning.

By my final season in 2005, I thought I was officially on my couch forever. I was going to fade away into oblivion like many players do. No fanfare, the phone just would stop ringing and I would just let the silence wash over me. The Yankees had called earlier in that off-season, acting like they were doing me a favor which I turned down, then they called back later with a more open tone, seeing me as a potential key piece in their outfield with Bernie Williams slowing down quite a bit at that point.

I did get off that couch for that call, only to get released the last week of camp, so I was back on the couch, with a fiancé and some extra salt in the wounds after that final meeting with Brian Cashman and Joe Torre, who boxed me into the coaches office to tell me I was released. Released? Come on. Never had that happen before.

The Cubs players will go through all of this if they have the good fortune of playing a long time. The wave of uncertainty, the meaning of age in this game spares no one. Each offseason is a time to reset, a period where you get away, seemingly adrift from the game, then as spring gets closer, the shoreline comes up in the horizon once again, magnetically drawing you to its shores for another season.

Amazingly, you don’t always know your age and what it has done to your body. 34 can’t be that old, right? I can still run, or throw 95. Then those 23-year-olds in camp are the wake up call, or maybe you are that 23-year-old and can’t believe your locker is next to Ryne Sandberg’s.

Then you blink, and you are advising Jimmy Rollins about etiquette and realize you have become that guy, the seasoned vet, preaching about locker room respect.

For the 2018 Cubs, they fell short of their goal to repeat their 2016 magic. Failed to meet their singular destination that meant success over all else. Yet, those who come back for 2019, will not be the same player, the same person, that left the locker room at the close this season. They will have grown, changed, aged, wizened up, rehabbed, hardened. All of which means that new perspective is the inevitable part of this time off, whether you like it or not.

Baseball is a game that has this unique dynamic. The highest intensity rhythm of any sport. Every day you are tested. You are pushed to the brink by sheer attrition. According to my teammate Ed Smith, who was playing third base at the time when Michael Jordan reached third, Jordan, after playing well over 100 games in a row, said to him “Man, I have never been this tired in my entire life.”

The grind.

Then it stops on a dime. Season over. Only on baseball’s terms.

But you may be granted another spring. Another crack at it. Until one day, the baseball winter never ends and its time for you to plant your own spring.

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Remember that guy? Former Cubs shortstop Ricky Gutiérrez

Ricky Gutiérrez played in the Majors from 1993-2004. He played shortstop for the Cubs from 2000-01 and later signed with them again in June 2004. 

However, Gutiérrez never got back to the Majors with the Cubs, who sent him to the Red Sox the following month. His final Major League game was with the Red Sox on Oct. 3, 2004, the final game of the 2004 regular season; he didn’t play in the 2004 postseason. Gutiérrez was subsequently signed and released by a few other teams, including the White Sox in 2005.

Gutiérrez holds the distinction of being the first Cubs player to hit a regular season grand slam against the White Sox (July 12, 2001). In his two seasons with the Cubs, he tied for the Major League lead in sacrifice bunts both years (16 in 2000, 17 in 2001) which was odd since he had a grand total of 18 sacrifice bunts in his 847 career games NOT in a Cubs uniform. He also had uncharacteristic power with the Cubs:  21 home runs for Chicago in 272 games, 17 home runs with everyone else (847 games).

What Cubs fans probably remember most is what Gutiérrez did against them. On May 6, 1998 he had the lone hit (many dispute it should have been ruled an error) for the Astros off Kerry Wood in Wood’s 20-strikeout masterpiece at Wrigley Field (Gutiérrez was responsible for two of the strikeouts). 

Later that season, on June 26, the number 20 and Gutiérrez were again connected when he had a 20-pitch battle against Bartolo Colón, which ended in a strikeout. It remained the last plate appearance in the Majors of at least 20 pitches until Brandon Belt flew out on the 21st pitch of an at-bat against the Angels' Jaime Barria on April 22, 2018.

Gutiérrez’s nephew, James Jones, played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Pacers, Suns, Trail Blazers, Heat and Cavaliers.