Despite struggles of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Cubs two victories from advancing
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ST. LOUIS — You could look at this as a good thing. And we will.
The Cubs are tied 1-1 in their National League Division Series after beating the Cardinals 6-3 on Saturday. And they are 2-1 in the postseason, counting their victory in the wild-card game Wednesday against the Pirates.
They come home to Wrigley Field for the next two games, needing to win two of the remaining three in the series to keep playing.
All this bodes well.
Yet neither Kris Bryant nor Anthony Rizzo has done anything at the plate. During the regular season, the two combined for 57 home runs and 200 RBI. They had 327 hits, 69 doubles, 30 stolen bases and 573 total bases. Bryant hit .275 and Rizzo .278.
Their line now? Zeros all the way. No hits, homers, stolen bases or RBI. But they have eight strikeouts in 21 at-bats.
That the Cubs beat the Cardinals by three runs had everything to do with a crazy five-run second inning in which walks, sacrifices, errors and an exceedingly timely homer by Jorge Soler turned the tide.
But the Cubs’ two biggest batters? Quiet as Kleenex.
Why is this not necessarily a bad thing? Because the Cubs have been able to win without their RBI leaders. And because these two
guys are going to hit. It is impossible to think they both will turn into lumps of impotence just because
‘‘I know they’re going to hit,’’ Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. ‘‘They’re gonna hit. The thing is to keep this rolling long enough to get them back in the groove a little bit.’’
The hitting breakout might come in Game 3 on Monday in front of what will be an insanely delirious home crowd. Plus, human buzz saw Jake Arrieta will be pitching for the Cubs, and that will bring confidence to the whole team.
If the game turns into the victory it should, the Cubs only will need to win one of the last two to advance to the NL Championship Series. And you know what comes after that: The Thing the Cubs Haven’t Been to in 70 Years and Haven’t Won in 107 Years.
Simply being in this position is amazing. With two games at Wrigley, you might say the Cubs have the edge. Just win both at home, and there’s no need fly to Missouri again.
Of course, these are the Cardinals. And their name mocks that sweet, little red bird. They are more a bright-red freight train than a feathered creature.
They have made the playoffs 12 times in the last 16 seasons and were NL champions in 2004, 2006, 2011 and 2013. No need to mention the franchise’s 10th and 11th World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.
Yet there’s something about these Cubs, who combine the impudence of youth with the fearlessness of those with nothing to lose, that is striking. It could be their stunning talent that has given them this confidence, this ability to dare.
Maddon said that when he talks to them in the dugout, ‘‘They’re present tense, they’re lucid, they look you right in the eye.’’ He claims conversations with them are ‘‘normal’’ and ‘‘easy’’ because ‘‘they’re not overwhelmed by anything, and that’s what sets them apart.’’
The hitlessness hasn’t affected Bryant’s or Rizzo’s spirit, seeing as both continue to make dazzling defensive plays. In the ninth inning Saturday, third baseman Bryant fielded every ball hit his way, making all three throws for the needed outs.
‘‘This is what this is all about,’’ an unfazed, cheery Rizzo said. ‘‘It doesn’t matter about any individual; it just matters about us, about how much fun we’re having.’’
He added that bunts and squeeze plays, dinks and dunks are just fine — if that’s what gets wins.
With two victories to go, Maddon has scheduled what he calls ‘‘Breakfast at Wrigley’’ on Sunday for the guys to chill out and do some bonding. It will come after batting practice, which players don’t even have to participate in.
‘‘It’ll be a smorgasbord, with tables set up on the other side of the batting cage,’’ Maddon said. ‘‘And we’re going to sit there and watch the NFL games on the big screen.’’
The thing in left-center field?
Is the weather going to be OK?
‘‘Seventy-seven degrees, they say.’’
Darned near perfect.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.