"Defense wins championships" is more of a football slogan, but the Cubs believe it applies to baseball, too. Throughout the 2016 season, the Cubs have posted historically good defensive numbers, to the point where they may be the best fielding team in baseball history. Now with October baseball in full swing, the Cubs are hoping that defense can carry them to the promised land.
Jake Arrieta vs. Madison Bumgarner should be a classic pitching matchup in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, the San Francisco Giants trying to avoid elimination on Monday night at AT&T Park. Focusing on run prevention, manager Joe Maddon went with a defense-first type of lineup as the Cubs took a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five battle, inserting elite defender Javier Baez at second base and moving Ben Zobrist to left field with offensive-oriented outfielders Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan on the bench.
"Defense wins championships," pitcher Jon Lester said. "The quarterback gets all the glory, but at the end of the day, if you're allowing a bunch of points, it doesn't really matter.
"Our defense has been unbelievable all year with guys bouncing around different positions. You got Javy playing second, which was kind of different for me. I'm used to seeing him at third and [Kris Bryant] in left. So, Joe does it again, you know what I mean? It's crazy."
The Cubs did commit three errors in Game 2 on Saturday night at Wrigley Field, but one was a catcher's interference called on Willson Contreras and the other two came on the same play when Bryant bobbled Bumgarner’s grounder and then compounded his initial mistake by throwing the ball into the visiting dugout. Neither player came around to score.
With runs at a premium in the postseason, it puts defense squarely in the spotlight. For the Cubs, their historic efficiency at turning batted balls into outs has a trickle-down effect, helping give the pitching staff an air of invincibility.
"I feel like any pitch, any ball that's hit into play, the play's gonna be made," reliever Carl Edwards Jr. said after making his postseason debut in Game 2. "It takes a lot off of me and all the other pitchers knowing we don't have to go out there and constantly try to strike out everybody and waste pitches.
"We can go out there with confidence and know if the ball is put in play, the play will be made."
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The Cubs have a handful of players who could easily win a Gold Glove this season - Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Jason Heyward, Bryant and Baez. But guys like Bryant and Baez may not given how much they've moved around the diamond. Maddon has pushed the idea of a new super-utility Gold Glove just for Baez, while MVP candidate Bryant played 69 games in the outfield this season.
"That's a testament to our guys," Lester said. "They go to different positions, they don't complain about it. 'KB' came up as a third baseman and look what he's done - he's played first, he's played left, he's played center.
"These guys don't complain. They just know it's for the greater good of the team and they go and play different positions. It seems to always kind of pay off for us. And I think it makes those guys better, too.
"It makes our team obviously better. But I think it makes them better just being versatile and giving us different looks, different lineup matchups and stuff like that."