Cubs

Cubs keep showing that 'believability' with another late comeback victory

Cubs keep showing that 'believability' with another late comeback victory

Maybe it was the early holiday start (12:10 p.m.)?

Could it have been the 13-inning marathon against the Giants that ended Sunday evening?

Or maybe the credit goes to Brewers starter Zach Davies.

Whatever the reason, the Cubs got out to a slow start offensively on Labor Day Monday, but turned it on late to coast to a 7-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in front of 43,662 (mostly Cubs) fans at Miller Park.

The Cubs didn't score until the sixth when Jorge Soler lifted a broken-bat single into shallow left-center to bring home Tommy La Stella.

In the seventh, Chris Coghlan notched a two-out RBI hit and then came around to score when La Stella's single bounced out of Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett's glove and into shallow right field.

The Cubs really broke the game open in the eighth inning with Heyward driving in a run on a fielder's choice (and another Brewers error), Javy Baez scoring Addison Russell with a perfectly-executed bunt and then Coghlan's two-run single.

"Everybody was contributing," Joe Maddon said. "There were a lot of good at-bats. Their guy's good. Davies, I have a lot of respect for him, He's a good, young pitcher.

"... One of our goals is to score first, but we've been able to overcome early deficits and we've got that strong believability that we can. That's a bit part of our recent success."

Coghlan - who was 2-for-2 with three RBI off the bench - echoed his manager's thoughts about the Cubs' late comebacks.

"That's the belief," Coghlan said. "If we don't do it right out of the game, then our belief is always that we'll do it before it's over. That's why it's tough to shut us out and to keep us down.

"Lately, it seems like we've been doing it later in games, which I mean that's what you gotta do to win. You gotta do it in the beginning - punch them in the mouth - and if you don't, then you gotta do it late and steal one from 'em. 

"That's what we've done and I think that's a reason why we win so many games."

Kyle Hendricks did what he does best - saved the bullpen after a crazy game the day before.

For the fourth straight time in such situations, Hendricks picked up a victory, surrendering only one run in six innings to lower his MLB-leading ERA to 2.07.

"After really awkward games, he has really picked us up," Maddon said. "That's just who he is. He normally gets you deeply into the game.

"... You pretty much have an idea what you're gonna get when he goes out there - strike-throwing, they gotta put the ball in play, they gotta move it. He normally does not get himself into trouble."

Hendricks' only real mistake was a homer by Chris Carter to lead off the second inning and the Cubs' potential Cy Young candidate improved to 14-7 on the season.

"I don't think there's any doubt [Hendricks is a Cy Young candidate]," catcher Miguel Montero said. "Is there anybody having a better year so far as him? I mean, he probably doesn't have as many innings as other guys, but that's not his fault, put it that way.

"He gives you his best every time he goes out there. The way he's been pitching, I don't see anybody that's been pitching as good.

"He's a complete pitcher. He knows he needs to pitch in order for him to get away with stuff, he needs to be smart about it and he needs to locate his pitches."

For his part, Hendricks shrugged off any talk of individual awards, deflecting to talk about his teammates.

"Personal accolades are something that just comes along with playing well," Hendricks said. "We're all here for staying healthy in September, getting ready for October and do it as a team."

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

How Ian Happ got his groove back at the plate

There's a legit case to be made that Ian Happ has been the Cubs' second-best hitter in 2018.

Yes, really.

Happ ranks second on the Cubs in OPS (.895), behind only Kris Bryant (.995) among regulars, though a recent hot streak has buoyed that overall bottom line for Happ.

Still, it's been a pretty incredible hot streak and it's propelled Happ back to where he began the season — at the top of the Cubs order. 

Happ has walked 10 times in the last 6 games and hammered out 3 homers in that span, including one on top of the Schwarboard in right field as a pinch-hitter Tuesday night.

Even more jaw-dropping: He's only struck out 5 times in the last 9 games after a dreadful start to the season in that regard.

"It was just a matter of time until things clicked a little bit," Happ said. "That's why we play 162 games and it's a game of adjustments. At the end of the day, it all evens out.

"Look at the back of Tony [Rizzo's] baseball card — it's the same thing every single year. That's how this thing goes. You're gonna have your ups and your downs and I'm just trying to be as consistent as I can. If I can level it out a little bit and be more consistent over a period of time, that'll be better for our team."

So yes, Happ is on the upswing right now and he'll inevitably have more slumps where he strikes out too much and looks lost at the plate.

Such is life for a 23-year-old who is still a week away from his 162nd career MLB game.

The league had adjusted to Happ and he had to adjust back, which he'd been working hard doing behind the scenes.

"I just try to get him to primarily slow things down," Joe Maddon said. "Try to get him back into left-center. And I did not want to heap a whole lot of at-bats on him. When you're not going good, if you heap too many at-bats on somebody, all of a sudden, that's really hard to dig out of that hole.

"So a lot of conversations — a lot of conversations — but nothing complicated. I like to go the simple side of things. I wanted him to try not to lift the ball intentionally, really organize his strike zone."

Maddon believes Happ had lost sight of his strike zone organization, chasing too many pitches out of the zone — particularly the high fastball.

Now, the Cubs manager sees Happ using his hands more and less of his arms in his swing, working a more precise, compact path to the ball.

The Happ experiment at leadoff was a disaster to begin the year — .186 AVG, .573 OPS and 22 strikeouts in 10 starts there — but all the same tools and rationale exist for why Maddon likes the switch-hitting utiliy player in that spot.

And that's why Happ was leading off Wednesday with both Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. getting the night off.

"We're gonna find out [if he can stick at leadoff]," Maddon said. "I just thought he's looked better. He's coming off a nice streak on the road trip. [Tuesday night], pinch-hitting. I know the home run's great and of course that's nice.

"But how he got to the pitch that he hit out, to me, was the important thing. Got the two strikes, took the two borderline pitches and then all of a sudden, [the pitcher] came in with a little bit more and he didn't miss it.

"That's the big thing about hitting well, too — when you see your pitch, you don't either take it or foul it off. You don't miss it. He didn't miss it."

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Who has more fun on the diamond, Javier Baez or Yolmer Sanchez?

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Who has more fun on the diamond, Javier Baez or Yolmer Sanchez?

Ozzie Guillen and David DeJesus join Leila Rahimi on Wednesday's podcast. After Tuesday's game-winning hit and second self-inflicted Gatorade bath the guys wonder if anyone has more fun on the field than Yolmer Sanchez. Jim DeShaies joins the conversation and brings Javy Baez to the table.

Plus, Manny Mania continues to swirl in Chicago. Finally, what should be the White Sox plan for calling up their top prospects?

Listen to the full Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast right here: