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Cubs’ play since debacle vs. Phillies pleases Joe Maddon

BY TONI GINNETTI
For the Sun-Times

Sweeping the four-game series against the defending world-champion San Francisco Giants will be a season benchmark as the Cubs push to reach the playoffs.

But the season’s portrait also will include how the team responded after being swept in a three-game series by the lowly Philadelphia Phillies last month.

“It was nice how we responded after that Philadelphia series,’’ manager Joe Maddon said Sunday. “I wasn’t as bummed out as a lot of people were because I thought they played well when they beat us.

“I went through it in Tampa, too, when the New York Mets did it to us. It’s part of baseball.’’

At the time, the Phillies had the worst record in baseball but were on a 7-1 roll after the All-Star break. Since that sweep at Wrigley Field, the Cubs are 11-2, including a four-game sweep in Milwaukee a week after the Phillies series.

“We did good things in that Milwaukee series,’’ Maddon said. “They were tight games. It pushed us forward.’’

Shortstop questions

Maddon repeated there are no plans to promote Class AAA Iowa shortstop Javy Baez, but Maddon was effusive in his praise for him.

“He’s doing well,” he said. “His defense is special, and his offense is improving. He’s a huge part of our future. I watched him in the Dominican and in spring training. I’ve been a big fan. He’s a real baseball player.’’

Left unsaid is how or if benched shortstop Starlin Castro will fit into the team, with Addison Russell having taken his place and Baez waiting in the wings.

Castro, the three-time All-Star, is under contract through 2019.

The Cubs also have three catchers — though David Ross is on bereavement leave after his grandmother’s passing — but it is less of a concern because rookie Kyle Schwarber is adapting to playing left field.

“We know he can do different things,’’ Maddon said of keeping the hot-hitting Schwarber in the lineup.

In the lead

Anthony Rizzo is Maddon’s idea of a team leader who can get taken for granted at times. But Rizzo sees Maddon as the team’s real leader.

“He brings a sense of calmness at all times,’’ Rizzo said. “He never shows he’s concerned, and that pays off big-time. There’s no tension. He’s easy to talk to, and that’s big for us.’’

Too close

Giants outfielder Nori Aoki was hit in the head by a Jake Arrieta changeup in the third inning and had to leave the game.

“You never want that to happen, especially in the head,’’ Arrieta said. “I had them call [the Giants’ clubhouse] to make sure he’s OK. I hope he’s playing for them tomorrow. I heard he’s doing well.’’

Cheers

Arrieta admitted being thrilled by the ovation he got from the 39,939 fans in attendance as he exited with two outs in the eighth.

“It’s a special feeling, and that’s why you play this game,’’ he said.

Streaking

Jorge Soler (nine games) and Kris Bryant (seven games) extended their hitting streaks. Bryant’s RBI single gave him 65 RBI, most among rookies. Soler is hitting .370 (10-for-27) with eight RBI in August after hitting .253 with nine RBI in July.