‘Frisky’ Ben Zobrist finds fountain of youth to lead Cubs during road trip


Zobrist hits a home run Thursday

NEW YORK – The 14-inning marathon the Cubs endured to eventually beat the Mets on Saturday night means leadoff-man-for-the-weekend Ben Zobrist gets Sunday afternoon off.

But not before he made his mark on the Cubs’ winning road trip — increasing the temptation to ride the hot hand at the top of the lineup.

“Whatever he’s doing, I’d like a taste,” manager Joe Maddon said of the fountain-of-youth magic the 37-year-old Zobrist has been pulling out of his bat this trip.

“He’s the Ponce-a-de-le-Zobrist.”

Zobrist reached base at least three times in each of his last four starts, going 10-for-20 with four walks – including a single leading off the game Saturday against Mets ace Jacob deGrom and a two-run double during the Cubs’ 14th-inning rally for the 7-1 victory (he also added two walks).

The Cubs won all four games.

“It’s incredible,” Maddon said. “With rest, if you keep that guy frisky, he can really still play.”

The Cubs outlasted seven stellar innings against deGrom, the National League’s ERA leader, to get a 1-1 game into extra innings, but not before deGrom struck out a career-high 13.

Full Monty

Joining the rotation after Yu Darvish was put on the disabled list with triceps soreness, Mike Montgomery has produced two exceptional starts, including a pitching duel with deGrom on Saturday night.

It’s one of the reasons Maddon is comfortable keeping the rotation in line this week instead of using Monday’s off day to manipulate the rotation.

Montgomery allowed only two hits in six innings Saturday – the second of which was a two-out homer by Michael Conforto in the sixth for the only run he allowed.

It’s the only run he’s allowed in 11 2/3 innings over those two starts, with just four hits and a walk allowed (nine strikeouts).

“That’s two in a row kind of dominant,” Maddon said.

No update for Yu

A week after Darvish went on the DL, the Cubs did not have a throwing schedule for him.

The team said at the time he was expected to start throwing by early this week and suggested he might even join the team in New York before the end of the two-city trip.

“I did not talk to anybody today about Yu,” Maddon said. “Or him.”


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Heyward heat

Jason Heyward, the Cubs’ long-struggling right fielder, is having the best road trip in two-plus years as a Cub.

Since a groundout pinch-hitting in Monday’s series opener in Pittsburgh, Heyward is 12-for-23 in five games – with three games of at least three hits – to raise his season batting average 49 points, to .271, in that span.

The most impressive performance might have been Saturday when he delivered three of his four hits in the game, including a seventh-inning double off the top of the wall in left-center, against deGrom.

“What he’s doing right now is different,” Maddon said, “and good.”

Notes: When right-hander Hansel Robles struck out Cubs pitcher Luke Farrell in the 11th, it gave Mets pitchers 21 strikeouts – a Mets franchise record for a game. It broke the 20-K record they set in 1999, at Wrigley Field. They finished with 24. …The Cubs left the bases loaded three times Saturday night, in the first, sixth and 10th innings – each ending with a strikeout.

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