Cubs blast five homers to cap sweep of Braves

SHARE Cubs blast five homers to cap sweep of Braves
SHARE Cubs blast five homers to cap sweep of Braves

BY TONI GINNETTI

For the Sun-Times

Cubs manager Joe Maddon doesn’t mind catching the red light near the intersection of Clark and Sheffield.

‘‘When you stop at the light, there’s a space between the billboards where you can see the light standards. It’s Wrigley Field,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘That doesn’t happen anywhere else, where you’re driving to the ballpark in the middle of the city, and there are those light standards. It doesn’t.

‘‘It’s too bad [old city ballparks] don’t exist anymore, but we have it here. I feel very fortunate to have that vista. I want to hit that red light every time, so I can see that.

‘‘And then I walk in through the gate and think, ‘Wow,’ every day.’’

Maddon remembers the same kind of feeling last season in his first visit to Wrigley when his Tampa Bay Rays played a three-game -series in August.

‘‘It’s a destination place [for opposing players],’’ he said. ‘‘I was really looking forward to it last year. I think teams do feel a certain amount of energy being here. I know I did last year.

‘‘But we get to come here every day and feed off our fans. We’re doing that now.’’

The homestand ends Monday with a makeup game against the Indians, so the Cubs and Maddon can appreciate what the home vibe has provided — and what things could be like in September.

‘‘This is the part of the year you really have to fight through,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘It’s the post-All-Star break into August, and this is the time you are fatigued. If you’re able to play for the moment, here comes September — and I promise you our guys will be charged up every day in September because September provides its own energy.

‘‘But you have to be in the hunt.’’

The Cubs are firmly in the hunt, their 71-51 record the fourth-best in baseball, and their play of late rivals that of the 1945 Cubs, who made the World Series.

The Cubs’ 9-3 victory Sunday completed a four-game sweep of the Braves, something the Cubs hadn’t done at Wrigley since 1968. It also gave them their fourth four-game sweep (they also did it against the Mets, Brewers and Giants), something they haven’t done since 1945.

‘‘That’s a nice harbinger,’’ Maddon said with a smile. ‘‘I like that we didn’t settle [for winning the series].’’

August has been about winning, with the Cubs going 16-4 during the month and 20-5 in their last 25 games. They’re scoring runs despite taking a breather from batting practice, under manager’s orders.

‘‘I agree with Joe that batting practice can be overrated,’’ said Kris Bryant, who proved it by hitting two home runs. ‘‘It was a good day to hit [with the wind blowing out], but it all evens out. I’ve never seen a park where the wind affects the game so much.’’

The crowds are having an effect, too, Maddon said, with Wrigley again bursting at the seams in attendance.

‘‘It’s awesome,’’ said Dexter Fowler, who had one of the Cubs’ five homers. ‘‘The fans come out every game and cheer for us win or lose, and it makes a difference.’’

The team already has drawn 2.3 million in 64 home dates.

But there’s no assurance that there will be a playoff game in Wrigley Field even if the Cubs are playing in October. They would have to move up from the second wlld-card spot with a challenging road trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles ahead this week.

‘‘We’re having fun,’’ said starter Jason Hammel, who said the grounds crew was invited to the postgame clubhouse celebration.

Follow me on Twitter @toniginnetti.

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