Cubs

Six in a row: The Cubs are feeling 'unbeatable'

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Six in a row: The Cubs are feeling 'unbeatable'

Joe Maddon thinks the Cubs have caught their second wind.

At this point, it's pretty much impossible to argue that.

The Cubs (64-48) pulled out their sixth straight victory Wednesday night, walking off the Milwaukee Brewers, 3-2, in front of 36,438 fans at Wrigley Field.

[MORE CUBS: Cubs searching for spots to get Kyle Schwarber in at catcher]

After Hector Rondon blew a save by allowing an unearned run in the ninth, Miguel Montero ended it with an opposite-field blast to lead off the 10th inning.

Montero and the Cubs were on Cloud Nine in the clubhouse after the game.

"Right now, the feeling in the clubhouse is we're pretty unbeatable," Montero said. "... That's the kind of feeling that we actually get and hopefully it stays there and we keep believing it.

"We got a good ballclub. The young guys are just getting better and better. There's no reason why we should not win."

Before Tuesday night's game, Maddon spoke about how well the Cubs rookies have been playing, and they delivered again Wednesday as Kris Bryant homered and Addison Russell drove in a run with a two-out hit in the fifth inning.

Maddon said the Cubs were like a car that wouldn't quite turn over ("Like my old '65 Plymouth that Uncle Chuck used to drive all the time") coming out of the All-Star break.

"And then, eventually, it turns over, and all of a sudden, guys start feeling it a little bit," Maddon said. "I thought there was a certain amount of mental fatigue post-break. I think we're getting through that somewhat right now.

"And like I said, you put yourself in position, now it's the playoff hunt in September, energy just shows up. You don't have to look for it; it's there.

"So we're looking for that component that takes care of that, so that when you arrive at that moment, you're ready to rock and roll. That's what our guys are starting to get."

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The Cubs had only four hits Wednesday, but they made them count and played some stellar defense behind starter Jason Hammel and four relievers.

"There you go, man: Pitching and defense getting it done again," Maddon said. "I could not be more proud of our guys. ... If we don't play that kind of defense, we do not win it."

Anthony Rizzo made the highlight-reel play, jumping completely into the stands to make a catch in the sixth inning to ignite the crowd and the dugout ("Even old man David Ross was fired up," Rizzo said).

"These games are really helping us get into that strong mentality of, 'we can do this,'" Anthony Rizzo said. "Not that we haven't had that all year, but all year we've been grinding - five or six games over .500. Up to eight or nine [over], then go back down.

"We never really got into a nice little run. Right now, we feel that and everybody feels really good about it."

It was the Cubs' 12th win in their last 13 games. The Cubs gained a game on their direct competition Wednesday, pulling to within 1.5 games of the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first wild card spot and extending their lead to 4.5 games over the San Francisco Giants for the second wild card.

"I couldn't be more proud of this group," Maddon said. "Most of them are young, but they come to play. I think they've gone through that intimidation moment or that 'happy to be here moment.'

"I think they feel like they belong here right now and they're showing up with a good look."

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

If baseball wants stars that transcend the game, they need guys like Javy Baez on the field MORE, not less.

That whole debate and baseball's marketing campaign isn't the issue the Cubs took exception with, but it's still a fair point on a nationally-televised Saturday night game between the Cubs and Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Baez was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when he threw his bat and helmet in frustration at home plate umpire Will Little's call that the Cubs second baseman did NOT check his swing and, in fact, went around. 

Baez was initially upset that Little made the call himself instead of deferring to first base umpire Ted Barrett for a better view. But as things escalated, Baez threw his bat and helmet and was promptly thrown out of the game by Little.

"I don't think I said anything to disrespect anything or anyone," Baez said after the Cubs' 6-3 loss. "It was a pretty close call. I only asked for him to check the umpire at first and he didn't say anything.

"I threw my helmet and he just threw me out from there. I mean, no reason. I guess for my helmet, but that doesn't have anything to do with him."

Baez and the Cubs would've rather Little check with the umpire who had a better view down the line, but that wasn't even the main point of contention. It was how quickly Little escalated to ejection.

"We're all human," Baez said. "One way or the other, it was gonna be the wrong [call] for one of the teams.

"My message? We're not animals. Sometimes we ask where was a pitch or if it was a strike and it's not always offending them. I think we can talk things out. But I don't think there was anything there to be ejected."

Upon seeing his second baseman and cleanup hitter ejected in the middle of a 1-0 game against a division rival, Joe Maddon immediately got fired up and in Little's face in a hurry.

Maddon was later ejected, as well, and admitted after the game he was never going to leave the field unless he was tossed for protecting his guy.

"He had no reason to kick him out," Maddon said. "He didn't say anything to him. I mean, I watched the video. If you throw stuff, that's a fine. That's fineable. Fine him. That's what I said — fine him — but you cannot kick him out right there.

"He did nothing to be kicked out of that game. He did throw his stuff, whatever, but he did not say anything derogatory towards the umpire.

"...You don't kick Javy out. If he gets in your face and is obnoxious or belligerent or whatever, but he did not. He turned his back to him. That needs to be addressed, on both ends."

Maddon and the Cubs really want Major League Baseball to get involved in this situation. 

There are many other layers to the issue, including veteran Ben Zobrist having to come into the game as Baez's replacement. Maddon was not keen on using the 37-year-old Zobrist for 1.5 games during Saturday's doubleheader and now feels like he has to rest the veteran Sunday to lessen the wear and tear of a difficult stretch for the team.

There's also the matter of the groundball basehit in the eighth inning that tied the game — a seeing-eye single that just got past Zobrist as he dove to his left. It tied the game at 3 and the Cardinals took the lead for good the following inning.

Does Baez make that same play if he were out there instead of Zobrist? It's certainly possible.

"The dynamic of our defense was lessened by [the ejection]," Maddon said. "Again, listen, if it's deserved, I'm good. It was not. They don't need me out there, we need Javy out there.

"And it surprised me. I stand by what I'm saying. It was inappropriate. MLB needs to say something to us that it was inappropriate because it was and it could've led to the loss of that game."

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 37th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 37th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 37th homer of the 1998 season was a big one, an opposite field blast off the front row of fans in right field and into the basket at Wrigley Field.

The eighth-inning 3-run shot gave the Cubs some insurance in a game they ultimately won 9-5 and the Wrigley faithful responded by throwing a bunch of trash on the field.

Earlier in the contest, Sosa tied the game with an RBI single in the fifth inning. He finished with 4 RBI, giving him 93 on the season with more than 2 months left to play.

Fun fact: Vladimir Guerrero was the Expos' No. 3 hitter for this game an dhe also hit a homer (his 20th). Now, Guerrero's son is nearing his MLB debut as a top prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system.

Fun fact No. 2: Mark Grudzielanek - who later played for the Cubs in 2003-04 - was Montreal's No. 5 hitter for the game at Wrigley. He was traded 10 days later from the Expos to the Los Angeles Dodgers for another fellow Cub - Ted Lilly.