Cubs eke out ‘huge’ road victory against Pirates, brace for long, unusual day at Little League Classic
“Maybe it’s a good thing to break up our routine,” said Kris Bryant, who atoned for two errors with a go-ahead home run in a 2-0 victory Saturday. “Obviously, [the normal routine] hasn’t been working for us on the road.”
PITTSBURGH — Get your Cubs Little League jokes out of the way now.
First time they won’t look out of their league on the road.
Maybe they can learn some fundamentals from the kids.
Closest they’ll get to a World Series this year.
But after beating the Pirates 2-0 on Saturday, the Cubs have only one thing on their minds as they prepare for their game Sunday against the Pirates in the Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Well, maybe two things: Keep their minds focused on what’s at stake in the final game of a long, ugly road trip and take their minds off what’s at stake for at least a few moments.
‘‘I think we’ll welcome it, just because maybe it’s a good thing to break up your routine,’’ said third baseman Kris Bryant, who atoned for two errors with a go-ahead home run leading off the seventh inning Saturday. ‘‘Obviously, it hasn’t been working for us on the road and what we’re doing now.
‘‘I’ve been looking forward to this since they announced it, and I think it’ll kind of put things in perspective, too. We’re going to watch the Little League World Series and hang around the kids and see how happy they are just playing the game. If we can take something like that from this experience, it doesn’t matter if we win or lose. It’s a win-win situation for both teams.’’
Not everybody’s on board with that last part. The Cubs desperately will be seeking a victory that would give them their first winning road series since May, especially as they close a trip that featured blown ninth-inning leads in back-to-back walk-off losses for the first time since 1960.
Even after left-hander Jon Lester put a lid on more jams than Smuckers to earn his first victory in more than a month, the Cubs are still only 3-6 during this trip and just 12-28 away from home since they last won a road series May 17-19 in Washington.
‘‘Winning on the road is huge,’’ said Lester, who pitched into the seventh before putting the first two men on in the inning and turning the game over to Tyler Chatwood. ‘‘You know you’re going to play well at home, so you want to really try to bear down and play well on the road. And sometimes, like for us right now, we’re just not doing it. If you ask anybody in here if they knew why, they’d fix it immediately, and we’d be a much better team on the road. But we’ll just keep grinding.
‘‘These last three games were tough, emotional games. Hopefully [Sunday] will be a little bit of fun and maybe a little less emotional, and we can get the series before going home.’’
The Cubs were scheduled to fly Sunday morning to Williamsport, then take a bus with some Little League players to the complex and watch the International bracket game with the kids. The big-league game starts at 6 p.m. at Bowman Field, the home of one of the Phillies’ Class A affiliates.
‘‘It’s going to be a long day; we know that,’’ manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘But when you know it in advance, it’s not quite as bad.
‘‘I do believe our guys will grab some energy from meeting the kids and seeing this for the first time. There’s going to be a certain amount of adrenaline. You’re going back to a 2,600-seat stadium. But it’s also going to provide something from within for all of us — the 21-year-olds or the 45-year-old manager.’’
Or even the 65-year-old one.
And there’s this:
“Both teams are on the road, so it’s a neutral site,’’ Lester said. ‘‘Maybe that’ll help. Hopefully we hang out with these kids and have some fun for a little bit and then kind of bear down and hopefully win the series.’’