Cubs conjure magic in New York, make Mets’ bats disappear

SHARE Cubs conjure magic in New York, make Mets’ bats disappear

NEW YORK – Last week Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he believed in baseball magic.

Tuesday in New York he employed a professional to help make it happen on the heels of a season-high five-game losing streak – bringing in “Simon” the magician and self-proclaimed mind reader to reset the mood.

Then after it “resulted in” a 1-0 victory over the Mets at CitiField, the Cubs’ first-year manager put Pilot’s 1975 pop hit “Magic” on a continuous loop on the clubhouse stereo system.

“It was about time,” Maddon said of the first of his famous clubhouse sideshows/distractions since being hired by the Cubs. “Tough series in St. Louis. I don’t want our guys to get all distraught for the wrong reasons.”

Distraught was not an issue Tuesday. Neither was pitching as Kyle Hendricks rebounded from two rough outings to go six innings, and the bullpen produced a nine-up, nine-down finish.

“We still have to a better job offensively,” Maddon said. “I’ll take it. I’ll take that kind of pitching.”

The Cubs’ last two wins were by 1-0 scores – with a combined six runs in the five losses in between. When rookie Matt Szczur drove home rookie Kris Bryant with a two-out double to the wall in left-center in the sixth, it snapped an 0-for-20 team skid with men in scoring position.

Magic?

“Joe doing that is incredible. It definitely loosens guys up,” Szczur, who added he tried to stay as far from Simon as possible to avoid getting his wallet or phone lifted. “I was more relaxed going into the game. I just felt more comfortable. I’m sure the other guys felt the same.”

Simon’s performance – the Sunday night brainstorm of a manager with a roster full of young players – was just one of the ways the Cubs tried to conjure their first win in a week.

By the time players filtered into the clubhouse, hitting consultant Manny Ramirez was back roaming the halls, and the mental skills department had big gun Ken Ravizza in the house.

But it wasn’t until Maddon closed down the clubhouse to outsiders and started talking to his team about “baseball magic” – then introduced Simon – that a difference was felt.

“Pretty sweet,” rookie second baseman Addison Russell said after emerging from the show. “That’s the second time I’ve seen a magician up close and personal. It was just a good little treat. It was a nice little surprise. It was cool.”

From making a crushed soda can come back to life resealed and refilled to having Anthony Rizzo write down and hide a celebrity name then using Google to reveal it through John Travolta’s images page, players and staff seemed awed enough to have forgotten the disappearing act the team did on its own much of the last week.

“That’s what Joe does,” said Hendricks (3-4), who earned his first victory in more than three weeks. “He kind of knows what triggers to pull at the right time.”

So why the magic guy and not one of his patented zoo animal visits?

“It’s hard to grab a zoo animal on the road,” Maddon said.

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