ST. LOUIS - Despite what angry Cubs fans on Twitter thought during the current nine-game losing streak, this team isn't ready to lay down and quit.
Sure, the Cubs don't have anything to play for this weekend in St. Louis besides pride. But that doesn't mean they were going to mess with the integrity of the pennant race when these three games are huge for the Cardinals and Brewers, who are separated by just 1 game in the NL Central.
"You want to win the game," Joe Maddon said Thursday night in Pittsburgh. "You just don't mail it in, ever."
That's exactly what they did Friday night, churning out an 8-2 win over the Cardinals for the first victory in 11 days.
A day earlier, Maddon had a colorful way to frame his thoughts on any potential complaining from people about his lineups that feature mostly backup players.
"Of course they're gonna bitch," Maddon said. "Of course they are. And I get it. But quite frankly, there's certain things I really don't give a shit about. And that would be one of them."
The context there is important - Maddon was not specifically referencing the Brewers and he qualified it by saying he's focused on what's best for his team right now, not what's best for any other franchise.
Still, the comments struck a nerve with Brewers nation, which is understandable if they saw the quote without context and took it to mean Maddon and the Cubs are going to throw out a "tanking"-style lineup in St. Louis.
Of course, that's not what happened. After giving them a day off Thursday, Maddon inserted Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist, Willson Contreras, Nico Hoerner and Nicholas Castellanos back into the starting lineup Friday before then needing to remove Castellanos with a minor groin injury suffered in pregame warm-ups.
Maddon also said Thursday he specifically held back his high-leverage relivers so they'd be fresh for the weekend in St. Louis and followed suit, utilizing Steve Cishek, Brad Wieck, Kyle Ryan, Rowan Wick, Pedro Strop and Brandon Kintzler in order after starter Alec Mills.
But you still won't see players nursing injuries out on the field for games that mean nothing to the Cubs and are "glorified spring training games," as Maddon put it. That means Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward are all almost assuredly done for 2019 and there’s no guarantee Castellanos plays again either now.
It also means Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish will not pitch again despite being on regular rest to be able to throw this weekend in St. Louis. But the Cubs have been closely monitoring Darvish's workload all season and see no reason to push either right-hander at the moment.
"These guys are hurt," Maddon said. "I'm not gonna play hurt people. I'm not gonna pitch guys over limits based on what's best for the Cubs, ever. So the conclusion of my commentary yesterday was pretty much - understand these guys are hurt. So if you want to try and complain, go 'head.
"I had no disrespect to anybody. I really didn't. It's about the Cubs and what we do and how we do and I gotta protect my guys, irregardless of what somebody else might think. At any place you're at, wherever you guys work, it's about circling the wagons within your building and you protect your own. Always. So that's what it really comes down to."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.