Cameron Maybin grinned as he jogged up the first base line. The sting that he must have felt where the pitch had struck him was a small price to pay for the win.
The Cubs beat the Indians 6-5 Tuesday on a walk-off hit by pitch, marking their third straight win and sixth in the past eight games. The Cubs (29-20), first in the NL Central, widened the gap between themselves and the second-place Cardinals (21-22) to five games. Less than two weeks remain in the season.
“As a team we keep battling back and everybody’s picking each other up,” Cub third baseman Kris Bryant said. “Spirits are as high as they can be.
“It’d be very easy to get down in the dumps. A lot of us aren’t where we want to be, but there are a lot of good people around us and people that support us. Anytime you’re out there winning, it makes it sting a little less.”
The Cubs have won their last three games in dramatic fashion. Their 4-2 win at Milwaukee Saturday featured a ninth-inning comeback. On Sunday, Alec Mills threw a no-hitter against the Brewers. On Tuesday, they logged their first walk-off hit-by-pitch since 2008.
When asked if the team has switched to playoff mode, Cubs shortstop Javier Báez said yes.
“When it comes to playoffs, numbers go away,” he said, “and that’s what we’re going to be working on these (next) two weeks.”
According to Báez, first baseman Anthony Rizzo gathered him and several other players who have struggled at the plate during this short season to talk before Tuesday’s game. Entering play, Rizzo was batting .137 in the month of September. Báez had two multi-hit games in the past week, but he was still hitting .203 this season.
“We were just talking about … trying to make adjustments for the team, not for our numbers,” Báez said. “That’s what we did today.”
Báez hit a home run in his first at-bat. He scored another run later in the game after stealing second and forcing an errant throw. Rizzo went 3-for-4 at the plate.
“It feels great to get this W,” Báez said, “and play as a team tonight.”