Former Cubs manager Lou Piniella coined an expression for weird happenings at Wrigley Field: “Cubbie occurrences.’’
What term describes the recent goings-on?
“It’s crazy, isn’t it?’’ manager Joe Maddon said after the latest unlikely finish to a 13-inning game that capped a four-game sweep of the Washington Nationals.
“One thing that sums it up — the guys were in it to the last drop.’’
That drop was a home run by Javy Baez off reliever Blake Treinen that ended the marathon game and gave the Cubs a 4-3 victory, their seventh in a row. It was his first career walk-off homer.
Baez had been the last available man off the bench when he entered in the eighth to pinch-hit for reliever Trevor Cahill, who had to bat for himself leading off the seventh so Maddon could save Baez for later.
The peculiar thing was, Cahill singled to start the inning that saw the Cubs score two to tie the Nationals at 3.
“I was trying to get on base,’’ said Baez, who was mobbed at the plate after the nearly five-hour game. ‘‘The most important thing is we never give up. We had nobody on the bench, and we still played hard. We’re never going to give up.’’
The Cubs had pulled off a three-game road sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates before this sweep of the Nationals, who are led by Dusty Baker, another former Cubs skipper.
“Give our guys all the credit in the world,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘They come ready to play. I know it’s simplistic, but it’s true.’’
On a day when ace Jake Arrieta didn’t have his best command and lasted only five innings, four relievers picked up the slack, pitching eight scoreless innings, with the victory going to Travis Wood.
Maddon used 18 players, including starting pitcher Jason Hammel as a pinch hitter.
Baker called on 18, as well, in a game that had a combined 25 hits — and 34 stranded runners, 21 for the Nationals.
“It’s been incredible,’’ Arrieta said. “Guys pick each other up when the moment calls for it, and the bullpen picked us up today.
“It was an incredible series, and pretty special the way it ended with Javy’s walk-off.’’
Even though Arrieta had an off day, the Cubs won a regular-season game he started for the 20th consecutive time — a franchise record.
In reaching the 24-6 mark, the Cubs have their best 30-game start to a season since doing it in 1907.
“We just played really good baseball the whole week,’’ said Anthony Rizzo (2-for-6), who has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games. ‘‘Today was icing on top.’’
What’s taking place on the field is a reflection of something unique going on off the field between Maddon and his players.
“I can’t say I create a line in the sand that I can cross and they can’t,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘I do identify with what they do and how they do it.’’
He is as much their colleague as their mentor.
“I always want to remain contemporary. Cars, manner of dress, music — I’m in,’’ Maddon said.
That could serve everyone well when the difficult times eventually come.
For now, “everyone has part-ownership of this [success],’’ Maddon said.
Follow me on Twitter @toniginnetti.