Twenty-one games into the truncated 60-game baseball season, Monday night’s win over the Cardinals might be the biggest yet for the Cubs.
“We needed a win — I think that’s evident,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “That was a big win for us.”
Just how big? A Cubs team that got off to its best start since 1907 was five outs away from its losing streak extending to five games. In a normal 162-game season that’s equivalent to a 14-game skid.
Amid a rough patch, having lost three straight one-run games to the Brewers over the weekend, this week’s five-game set with the Cardinals offered the Cubs a chance to reverse their fortunes.
St. Louis returned to action over the weekend after a two-week shutdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak. They're without several key players, including catcher Yadier Molina and shortstop Paul DeJong. Two of their best starting pitchers threw against the White Sox on Saturday and Sunday. Cubs Opening Day starter Kyle Hendricks took the bump in Game 1 of Monday's doubleheader.
Despite all that, the Cardinals pulled out a 3-1 win in the matinee of the twin bill. They followed that by no-hitting the Cubs for 5 1/3 innings in Game 2, both games being only seven innings.
The Cubs, in danger of losing both doubleheader games, certainly needed a win and got just that, thanks to a late pinch-hit three-run homer from infielder David Bote in a 5-4 affair.
“You knew something of this nature was gonna happen, even in a 60-game season," Bote said of the losing streak. "You have stretches where it doesn't go your way.
"As much as it is a sprint and as much as every game literally matters with great magnitude, you really got to trust that we’ve been playing good baseball and not push the panic button or the press button — you start pressing — because that’s how you start spiraling down.”
For as much that went right in the first few weeks of the season, things found a way to go wrong for the Cubs in recent days. But in this short season, they know they can’t get too caught up on results, no matter how frustrating they may be, and take things one day at a time.
“You’re going to hit some adversity, and those things have come up,” Ross said. “I haven’t seen our guys waver one bit with their concentration, with their work ethic, with their commitment to having good at-bats, making good pitches. All the work’s been there.
“This is definitely a win that can — you feel like you got one, a good one here that we needed."