The question posed to Joe Maddon Sunday afternoon seemed at the time to address the future as much as it did the present.
Even without a trade deadline addition, are the Cubs pretty much a complete team?,” Maddon was asked.
Maddon – who had just said he didn’t expect team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer to make any major moves on Monday – seemed to suggest that the Cubs had all the pieces in place to make a legitimate run at a World Series run in the fall.
“There’s nothing (coming) that’s going on as far as I know,” Maddon said. “Nothing. Nothing. Crickets.”
Late Sunday night, the Cubs showcased just how complete they may be heading into the most two pivotal months of the season.
The Cubs erased a six-run deficit with a frantic three-run ninth inning before pinch-hitter Jon Lester dropped a perfect squeeze bunt in the 12th inning to score Jason Heyward and give the Cubs a 7-6 win over the Mariners at Wrigley Field.
“I was just happy I was able to do what I was supposed to do and that it worked out,” said Lester, who said Maddon said he talked to him about going up in the 11th inning to bunt before using him in the 12th.
“I was trying not to screw anything up and just get (the bunt) down and see what happened from there.”
Heyward doubled to start the 12th before Willson Contreras, whose hustle had kept the Cubs alive in the ninth, advanced him to third with a sacrifice fly. That’s when Maddon turned to Lester and his .075 batting average to give the Cubs a victory that nine innings earlier had seemed so improbable.
Facing a 2-2 count, Lester dropped a bunt right in front of the plate that Mariners’ reliever Cody Martin attempted to scoop and throw home. But the ball dribbled out of his glove as Heyward slid head-first across the plate and the entire Cubs’ dugout spilled out to celebrate with Lester.
“Give our guys credit, that’s the kind of moment that propels you,” Maddon said. “We haven’t had a walk off at home yet.”
Not until Sunday.
The Cubs fell behind 6-0 after three innings when the Mariners shelled Sunday spot starter Brian Matusz, who gave a two-run homer in each of the three innings he worked. Two of the three – including Nelson Cruz’s blast into the left field bleachers in the first inning and Robinson Cano’s in the second came with two outs. Dae-Ho Lee pushed the lead to six runs in the third inning when he homered off of Matusz, who threw only 53 pitches and yet allowed six runs on six hits.
That’s when the Cubs’ rested bullpen went to work. Carl Edwards, Jr. pitched two innings of no-hit ball before Maddon worked through the rotation of Joe Nathan, Pedro Strop, Travis Wood – who also played left field and made a catch that landed him in the ivy – and Mike Montgomery, who all labored on the mound until the Cubs could rally in the ninth.
“The bullpen was unbelievable,” Matusz said. “And the perseverance with our offense. I mean, (it was) just a tremendous win out there.”
Trailing 6-3, the Cubs made their dramatic push. After Kris Bryant struck out, Anthony Rizzo doubled and Ben Zobrist singled before Addison Russell got the Cubs within two runs with an RBI single. After Heyward was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Contreras beat the throw at first base on what would have been a game-ending double play to extend the inning.
Zobrist scored on the play, drawing to Cubs to within 6-5. Mariners’ reliever Steve Cishek then unleashed a wild pitch, which scored Russell to complete the frantic comeback as the Wrigley crowd of 40,952 came unleashed.
Closer Aroldis Chapman, who blew his first save as the Cubs’ closer on Saturday, pitched a scoreless 10th inning before Hector Rondon worked the 11th and 12th, setting up Lester’s game-winning bunt in a game when Maddon demonstrated just how many pieces he has to work with.
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