It was time for a jolt.
The Cubs, on the verge of having their four-game losing streak extended to five and being swept in Monday’s doubleheader against the Cardinals, looked like they could use one.
Enter David Bote.
“He’s done that a time or two, and it’s really a spark, and it’s energizing after a long day,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said.
Bote came into Game 2 in the sixth inning to pinch-hit for Victor Caratini with the Cubs trailing 4-2. The Cubs’ offense had been nonexistent up to the sixth, as Willson Contreras’ RBI double three batters earlier was just their first hit of the game. And things hadn’t gone well for the Cubs for a while before Bote’s at-bat. Their offensive struggles carried over not just from a 3-1 loss in Game 1 but from a rough weekend against the Brewers.
After a two-out walk to Jason Heyward, Bote came to the plate with a chance to turn things around. With injuries also piling up, the Cubs needed something to go right.
They got it in one swing as Bote saw a 1-0 fastball from Tyler Webb and crushed a two-out, three-run homer to the shrubs in center field to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead.
The 430-foot blast proved to be the game-winner — and the good fortune the team needed to get out of its rut.
“You knew something of this nature was gonna happen, and even in this season, you have stretches where this just doesn’t go your way,” Bote said. “We got the one hit to finally kind of put us through there and kind of put a stop to things. But this is gonna happen. You can’t get frustrated. . . . You really got to trust that we’ve been playing baseball and not push the panic button. When you start pressing, that’s when things start spiraling down.”
In the first two weeks of the season, the Cubs handled their success. Over the last week, they’ve had to handle failure. Each game this season carries more value, and with that comes an added sense of urgency, especially in a rough stretch like the Cubs have dealt with.
“You’re gonna hit some adversity and those things have come up,” manager David Ross said. “We’ve had to shuffle some things around — players and positioning — but I hadn’t seen our guys waver one bit with their concentration, with their work ethic, with their commitment to having good at-bats and making good pitches. All the work has been there.”
Said Rizzo: “When you lose, it sucks. It always sucks, especially with the vibe and the energy and everything we have going on here. To add on to that, it’s to the Brewers and you lose one to the Cardinals [in Game 1]. You know, it’s going to come down to the end, and they’re going to be fighting. So to get the win today is nice.”
There was much discussion in recent days about how the Cardinals would perform after not playing for two weeks. Their performance Monday’s doubleheader was a clear reminder you can’t take any team for granted in this wild 2020 season.
“We can’t write off anybody in our division — we knew it was gonna be a grind,” said right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who allowed three runs in 6⅓ innings in Game 1. “We always play each other tough, whether it’s Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cincy, Pittsburgh. We have so much history. . . . We know we’ve got to make pitches, we’ve got to make the plays and we’ve got to put good swings on balls. We’ve just got to play a little bit better.”