Cubs

Cubs look more like themselves in snapping four-game losing streak with comeback win over Brewers

Cubs look more like themselves in snapping four-game losing streak with comeback win over Brewers

The Cubs are back…to being a .500 team. Not that anyone in this clubhouse would ever show the signs of frustration this early into a World Series title defense, but this comeback win felt more like something out of that unforgettable 2016 season.
 
"Some days you win, some days you lose, and some days the offense picks your sorry ass up!" Brett Anderson posted on his Twitter account after Tuesday's 9-7 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers snapped a four-game losing streak and reenergized Wrigley Field.

Except for a bad Anderson start – and the scattered boos heard from the crowd of 39,026 – this looked more like the Cubs team you expected to see. 

"Tonight was a perfect example," new Cub Jon Jay said. "Guys didn't get down and kept on fighting, kept on fighting. The guys out here, they play all nine. They play hard."

A relentless lineup erased a 5-0 deficit, scored in bunches with two two-run homers from Kyle Schwarber and Miguel Montero and ultimately wore out the Brewers (8-7) with role players like Jay and Albert Almora Jr. 

A bullpen still trying to define roles got its act together, with five relievers combining to limit the Brewers to one run across the final five-plus innings and slow down Korea Baseball Organization sensation Eric Thames (3-for-5, two doubles off Anderson).

It didn't feel exactly like the playoffs, but the press box did shake a little bit in the sixth inning, when Almora smashed a pinch-hit, two-run single off third baseman Travis Shaw's glove to make it a 7-6 game. The crowd roared again when Jay hammered a Jared Hughes fastball off the right-center field wall for a game-tying triple – and then scored the go-ahead run on a Hughes wild pitch.

"It's early in the season," Jay said. "We got guys with track records and guys who've had big years, so it's all about staying in that routine and continuing to play."

The contributions from all over the roster bailed out Anderson, who had the reporters in the interview room cracking up after the Brewers hit him hard and knocked the injury-prone pitcher out in the fourth inning, though not because of the ball that drilled him "right in the fat part of my fat hamstring." 

"Yeah, it didn't feel great, but it didn't really effect me," Anderson said. "I tweaked a groin last start and got hit in the hamstring this start, so it wouldn't be a Brett Anderson start without some sort of athletic play.

"I'd like to have a start where I don't have to deal with something, but it comes with the territory of being super-athletic."

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Can't relate, a beat writer said.

"Not many people can," Anderson said in his deadpan voice.

The 2016 Cubs didn't lose their seventh game until May 11, but this is still a new group trying to create a different identity, even if most of the names and faces are the same.

"We set the bar really high last year," Montero said. "We had a really good start last year. Whatever we're at right now, that doesn't mean that it's a really slow start. We're playing .500 now. We just got to worry about one series at a time, one game at a time."

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

When Ben Zobrist rejoined the Cubs active roster on Sept. 1, it was fair to wonder how much he could provide offensively. After all, he spent the previous four months on the restricted list while tending to a family matter, last playing a big-league game on May 6.

Zobrist did no baseball activities from May to mid-July, only working out to stay in shape. Although he eventually ramped things up, he played in just 12 minor league rehab games in August before returning to the Cubs, a small number compared to the length of his absence.

Even Zobrist admitted upon his big-league return that his timing at the plate wasn’t where he wanted it to be. And yet, what he did in September was nothing short of impressive. In 21 games, he posted a .284/.377/.388 slash line, performing at a level many couldn’t have expected, considering the circumstances.

Zobrist's impact on the Cubs' lineup goes beyond what you see in the box score, however. Not only is he a switch hitter with some pop, but he has a keen eye for the strike zone and frequently puts together professional at-bats.

On a Cubs team that tends to expand the zone, Zobrist’s presence mattered. In his second game back, for example, he went 3-for-3 with two walks, helping the Cubs beat the Brewers 10-5. After the game, Brewers starter Chase Anderson pointed out how different the Cubs' lineup looks with Zobrist in it.

"They play the matchups really well and Zobrist makes that team so much better," Anderson said on Sept. 5. "Just bringing his presence to the top of the lineup, it changes their dynamic a little bit."

Where Zobrist stands entering 2020, though, is currently unclear.

Zobrist is set to hit free agency after the World Series and will turn 39 next May. Therefore, it’s possible that he’s played his last game in the big leagues, as he has little, if anything, left to prove at this stage in his career.

Ahead of the Cubs’ season finale on Sept. 29, Zobrist told reporters in St. Louis that he hasn’t thought about how much time he’ll take before deciding what’s next for him. His family situation will obviously play a big role in his decision, but if September showed anything, it's that he still has something left in the tank.

“I’m 38 but I got that feeling all over again,” Zobrist said following the Cubs’ season finale, a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals in which he pitched a scoreless inning. “Just really fun, you know? It’s a fun game. Sometimes you don’t come out on the winning end, but you still gotta have fun with it and enjoy it. I enjoyed it today."

The Cubs roster is expected to undergo changes this offseason, with center field, second base and the leadoff spot being just a few areas the team will look to address. The latter two spots became revolving doors during Zobrist’s absence, as the Cubs struggled to replace what he brought offensively.

Zobrist is past the point in his career of being an everyday player. However, he still could be a useful asset for the Cubs in a supporting role, bringing his veteran approach to the lineup when he plays while still offering an experienced voice in the clubhouse.

“I take a lot of joy in that role, just being a supporting guy and being a part of winning clubs and part of winning atmospheres and cultures,” Zobrist said on Sept. 29. “The Chicago Cubs have been that since I’ve been around. This year we didn’t make the playoffs — we still have a winning record — (but) the kind of relationships that are built here and the culture that’s been built here is definitely a winning one.”

After the Cubs announced that they wouldn’t retain Joe Maddon for 2020, Zobrist acknowledged that more changes were likely coming in the offseason. Only time will tell what that means for the veteran utilityman — should he continue playing.

Whether he retires or joins a different team for 2020, though, Zobrist will look back on his four seasons with the Cubs fondly.

“(They’re) just the most passionate fans I’ve ever met,” he said of Cubs fans. “They’re very loyal, very passionate and it’s been such a pleasure to be a part of that team that beat the curse back in ’16, so I feel that still, when I see Cubs fans, there’s a lot of them that hug me and thank me for being a part of that.

“I’ll always look back at [my] time here — I don’t know what’s going to happen in the offseason — but look back at these four years and [be] very grateful to be able to be part of a group like this and be able to do what we did while I was here.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

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USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon and Jeff Nelson give us their memories of Joe Maddon's time with the Cubs and discuss David Ross and Joe Espada's candidacy to be the next manager.

01:30 Kelly's memories of Joe from the perspective of a reporter

06:00 Going back to Hazleton with Joe

07:45 Joe's legacy as manager of the Cubs

16:00 How Joe impacted Javy Baez' career

18:00 David Ross and Joe Espada may be the leaders to replace Joe Maddon.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

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Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.