In the last 15 years, only one defending World Series champion has won its division.
“The minute that last out’s being made, there’s people going to bed thinking about getting up and working out the next day to try to knock you off your perch,” said former Cub Ryan Dempster, whose 2013 Red Sox champs finished last the next year. “That’s what’s really, really hard about trying to repeat.”
And if your championship happens to be the longest-sought, most celebrated in American sports history – eliciting a “bender” in direct proportion to the magnitude of the event (at least for the team president)?
“Even harder than winning one after 108 years would be winning one the next year,” said Dempster, who returned to the organization as a special assistant in time for the Cubs’ historic ascension. “What these guys are doing this year and the way they’re going about it is impressive, just to be on top of the division this time of the year.”
This was the prism through which the Cubs viewed their return to the ballpark Tuesday, following a weekend sweep at the hands of the Brewers and an off day on Monday.
Their division lead down to a meager two games after losses in six of eight games?
“I tell everyone to take the positives out of everything to this point,” said Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo before the Cubs beat the Mets 8-3 Tuesday night to open a three-game series at Wrigley Field.
“Where we are, coming after the after the greatest championship in sports history, we’re in position to win the division again,” he said of trying to do what only the 2009 Phillies have done since 2002.
“I think everyone needs to start rallying around us even more now because we need it more, instead of maybe panicking a little bit, because this is the time we’re going to get hot these next three weeks and raise that banner against next year, hopefully.”
To that end, starter Jose Quintana (6-3) pitched seven strong innings, leading the Cubs to their fifth victory in his last six starts.
The Cubs got homers from Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ on the way to scoring more than twice as many runs as they had in the three games against the Brewers combined.
Notes: Catcher Willson Contreras (hamstring) returned to the starting lineup and as scripted was lifted after catching seven innings. He walked three times in four trips to the plate and is expected to start again Wednesday then get Thursday off. …Bryant’s three-run homer in the Cubs’ four-run fourth inning was his 26th of the season – first of September. His four RBIs also were his first of the month.
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