In desperate need of consistency, Cubs finally catch a break: ‘We needed that'


Kyle Schwarber stood on third base and roared at the Cubs dugout with the fury of a man frustrated by a 24-inning scoreless streak at a pivotal point in the season.

"That was a lot of emotion there," he said. "I was hyped. Everyone in the dugout was, too."

It wasn't exactly the way you draw it up — a soft liner to center field, a grounder off the first-base bag and another groundout — but the Cubs offense finally broke through for five runs in the bottom of the seventh inning of Monday's win. 

It was an inning that may have saved the Cubs' season. 

For now, at least.

That might be hyperbolic, but with only 25 games remaining and the Cardinals already pulling out another win earlier in the day, the Cubs could not afford to fall 4.0 games back in the NL Central standings.

"We needed that, we needed to have that one break," Joe Maddon said. "As soon as it was hit, [bench coach Mark Loretta] yells out, 'Hit the bag!' And of course it did. 

"We needed something like that to get us rolling in the right direction. Hopefully that does. I'm not gonna proclaim anything, we just won the game today."

Maddon was referencing a discussion-point from the Cubs' last homestand, when Anthony Rizzo declared the team's 12-11 win over the Giants a "season-defining win." The Cubs barely pulled out a 1-0 victory the next day and then got swept by the red-hot Washington Nationals, rendering Rizzo's statement obsolete.

The Cubs have been here before. This 2019 season has been filled with huge moments that could change the tide — Rizzo's "season-defining win," Kris Bryant's late homer in Cincinnati, Jon Lester's gritty effort in Pittsburgh, the list goes on and on. 

Maybe Rizzo's flare and Schwarber's literal *base* knock will be the actual seminal moment in this 2019 campaign.

The Cubs won't make any declarations about it, but they can certainly hope.

"With this club, anything can happen," Schwarber said. "We all know what we got in here — it's a bunch of studs. ... We just needed the monkey off the bat there. We gotta be able to continue to get guys in scoring position and things are gonna happen."

The Cubs had no trouble getting guys on base Monday, stranding nine runners before Rizzo's game-tying hit in the seventh inning. That hit also broke an 0-for-23 stretch with runners in scoring position since Friday's win.

The offensive lull clearly had gotten inside the Cubs' head. Even the manager admitted so, saying it was an "easy call" to pinch-hit for Kyle Hendricks with two outs and nobody on base in the sixth inning despite the fact the right-hander was cruising and had only thrown 81 pitches. 

The fact Schwarber's game-winning hit deflected off the bag was something of poetic justice for a Cubs lineup that had hit a lot of line drives and hard-hit balls right at defenders over the last few games.

"It's unbelievable, just to finally see the result," Hendricks said. "We've been putting together great at-bats this whole time, but when you keep lining out at guys, you feel like you're doing something wrong. So finally just to see a couple fall, get a couple runs across — huge game-changer and hopefully roll into tomorrow."

But how do the Cubs actually roll this win into "tomorrow" and finally build some consistency in a season fraught with roller coaster highs and lows?

Look no further than the offensive approach.

Maddon has been hammering the point lately about how the Cubs hitters need to stop chasing at pitches out of the strike zone and instead get opposing pitchers to come to them. 

Even despite the victory Monday, the Cubs manager still wasn't happy with that aspect of the game. 

"Ehhh," he said before pausing for seven seconds to try to find the right words. "That's the one thing we still gotta get better at. That's the separator right there."

Remember, they've scored in just one of their last 26 innings of offensive baseball.

But that's not for lack of trying and an inning like Monday's can absolutely have the calming effect the Cubs seek.

Plus, Javy Baez is getting a much-needed breather right now after a tough stretch at the plate and could come back looking more like an NL MVP contender. Then there's Ben Zobrist's addition into the lineup, of which he should be in Tuesday and several of the games in Milwaukee over the weekend. Willson Contreras is also closing in on a return, playing his third rehab game Monday with Triple-A Iowa.

Less than four weeks remain in the season, but the Cubs also will have a chance to make up ground in a hurry with seven games remaining against the Cardinals (all in the final two weeks).

"Just keep going," Schwarber said. "That's the name of the game. Everyone's gonna be excited to face us and that's not an excuse, it's just that no matter what the situation is, just keep fighting, scratching and clawing. 

"That's what we do every day. I wish that everyone on the outside could see the motivation that we have in the clubhouse and the dugout between innings, even when we're not scoring. We believe that we're one hit away every time and that's the way we play the game."

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream
Contact Us