Cubs ‘take care of business,’ roll Giants to open important trip

SHARE Cubs ‘take care of business,’ roll Giants to open important trip
SHARE Cubs ‘take care of business,’ roll Giants to open important trip

SAN FRANCISCO – They woke up Tuesday morning to the sight of their Monday afternoon victory celebration gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated.

ESPN has made a Cubs theme of its week of broadcasts, putting them center stage Wednesday night and Sunday night during this trip.

And Barry Bonds greeted several of the young Cubs at the batting cage at AT&T Park before Tuesday’s opener of a three-game series rife with playoff implications.

Then Jake Arrieta and the Cubs’ power lineup ramped up the attention meter on young contenders by beating the defending-champion Giants 8-5 Tuesday night for their 21st win in 25 games.

After five years of ugly Cubs’ baseball, all eyes are suddenly on the Cubs.

And it’s not even September yet.

“Love it. Absolutely love it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the growing attention and scrutiny – and pressure? – on his young team.

“I love the fact that the games are meaningful,” he said. “I love the fact that people are going to use the word pressure a lot, and scrutiny. I think it’s great. It’s good for our guys. We anticipated being there this year and years to come. You’ve got to get used to it at some point.

“And it’s a good thing. If you want to run away from the word pressure, then you’re never going to be in a significant moment in your life.”

The only thing the Cubs seem to be running away from these days is a San Francisco team that has won three of the past five World Series.

Arrieta’s 13th consecutive quality start and a three-homer attack put the Cubs 7 ½ games ahead of their closest rivals for the final playoff spot in the National League.

The last time a Cub had as many quality starts in a row, he won the Cy Young Award (Greg Maddux with 14 straight in 1992).

“Our goal is still to win the division, and it’s still attainable,” Maddon reiterated Tuesday. “So lets’ keep our focus on that.”

For the first time since the standings began taking on relevance, the Cubs are closer to the first-place Cardinals (6 ½ games) than the Giants. They’ve made up four games on the Cardinals in August.

“All we can do is just put pressure on,” said Arrieta (16-6), the first in the majors to 16 wins, “and continue to come to the park every day and play sound and fundamental baseball. And if we do that, we’re going to continue to win a lot of games.”

A lot of games? The 21-4 run is the Cubs’ best 25-game stretch since 1936. With their 15th win in their past 20 road games, the Cubs improved the best road record in the majors to 34-25 (.576).

Combined with Pittsburgh Pirates’ loss Tuesday, the Cubs moved to just two games behind the Pirates for the top wild-card spot and potential home playoff game, with 38 games to play.

“How everything works out in the end, a lot has to do with the teams ahead of us and what they do, because we’re going to continue to take care of business,” said Arrieta, who didn’t allow an earned run in 6-plus innings, lowering his ERA to 2.22 – second only to Zack Greinke (1.67) in the National League.

“It’s going to require some good fortune ahead of us.”

Three homers a night from teammates won’t hurt, either. Tuesday marked the ninth consecutive game with at least one homer for the Cubs – the fourth time in seven games they’ve hit at least three.

“I heard that it’s a pretty tough ballpark to hit in, at night especially,” said rookie Kyle Schwarber, whose three-run homer off Matt Cain in the third got the Cubs started. “But we did a good job of getting some balls up in the zone and not missing the pitch.”

The Cubs added three more in the fourth, including two on Miguel Montero’s 14th homer.

And Starlin Castro, starting at short for the second game in a row with Addison Russell unavailable, hit his first since June 12 on a night he missed the cycle by about a foot.

After a single, double and homer in his first three at-bats, Castro drove a ball to the gap in right that ex-Cub Marlon Byrd just reached after a long run, robbing Castro of extra-bases.

“When I hit it I thought it’d be a triple,” Castro said.

If there’s pressure on these guys, they don’t seem to notice.

“We’re so young, we really don’t know what we’re doing,” said Schwarber, who has 12 homers and 35 RBIs in 42 big-league games. “Right now it just feels like we’re in a playoff game every game.

“You just stay in the moment and enjoy it, have fun and take care of business at the same time. If you start putting too much pressure on yourself, bad things are going to happen.”

The Latest
White Sox showing signs of life after so-so start
Tony Ragucci also agreed Monday to cooperate with federal investigators. A prosecutor told the judge he did not expect Ragucci’s cooperation to end “any time soon.”
For nearly a month, Planned Parenthood of Illinois has offered Mifepristone to patients both in and out of state through telehealth counseling and mail services.
Christian Orlando made his first steelhead memorable.
Chicago seems to have fallen badly behind in lane marking, making it difficult for drivers to maintain proper positions. The city also makes no effort to maintain some of its traffic signage and needs to fix potholes.