Anthony Rizzo had a simple explanation for why the Cubs continue to rally. He didn’t mess around with anything beyond with what any observer can see.
“I think it’s just the talent,” Rizzo said. “You see the talent here. It’s anyone on any day.”
The Cubs and their talent rallied again Saturday, coming back to beat the Atlanta Braves 9-7. Thanks to a five-run Atlanta fifth, the Cubs went down 7-3 and five innings away from wasting a chance to gain ground in the National League playoff race.
Then they scored three times in the fifth and tied it in the sixth on an Addison Russell homer.
“Right after they got the runs it gets a little bit quiet, and then we answered it relatively fast,” Maddon said. “That’s a big part of it, when you’re able to answer. If the other team surges you come back and answer it could definitely put it back working in your favor again.”
By the eighth when they were facing old teammate Edwin Jackson it almost felt inevitable they would finish the comeback. They did, with Miguel Montero and Jorge Soler hitting back-to-back solo homers against Jackson before Hector Rondon picked up his 23rd save to complete the latest rally.
“Today, we definitely never doubted. It was like it was just a matter of time,” Montero said. “So it’s definitely a good feeling when guys know that we can come back at any time in any situation. It was never panic, so that’s a good sign.”
That’s a lot of what the Cubs have said this season. There have been slumps and bumps that any team as young as the Cubs would be expected to encounter.
But instead of wilting and letting winnable games get away, the Cubs and their four rookies are looking like a playoff team. Combined with San Francisco’s loss at Pittsburgh, the Cubs have a five-game lead over the Giants for the second National League wild-card spot.
“You start winning and your mind changes and you start believing that we are good,” Montero said.
Maddon didn’t discount the value of what the Cubs are doing.
“That’s a big part of any professional, or any sports team, is that you know you’re never out of it,” Maddon said. “You know that you can come back.”
Of course, the Cubs would like a few more comfortable wins. They didn’t get that Saturday after starter Dan Haren allowed four runs and Travis Wood gave up three more in relief, but that didn’t stop the Cubs from winning their third straight and 18th of 22.
“Whenever a team gets up on us pretty early, our confidence doesn’t get shut down,” Russell said. “I think that we’re a fighting team. I think that we’re a fighting team and we’re into our emotions a lot. We’re a ball club that likes to have fun.”
It’s clear the fans are having fun as well. The announced crowd of 41,196 – and Cubs fans in general – drew praise from Rizzo.
“It’s great. The fans are bringing it,” said Rizzo, who hit his 25th homer in the third. “The stadium erupted with those home runs in the eighth and it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be fun, we’ve got to keep playing good baseball for them and ride off their energy.”
That doesn’t seem like a problem.
“Our guys are wonderful,” Maddon said. “They might get a little bit, I don’t want to say the word down… you absorb the body blow, you come back in the dugout and you fight back. And that’s what we did.”