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Cubs show their mettle in thrilling series with Brewers

9 months agoTony Andracki

The Cubs are gaining ground on the Milwaukee Brewers.

Thanks to a pair of 1-run thrillers, the Cubs claimed the final 2 games of the series at Wrigley Field this week and now sit 3 games behind the Brewers in the National League Central.

After a 1-0 nail-biter Tuesday night, the Cubs pulled out another close game Wednesday afternoon with a 3-2 victory.

“That’s what a playoff-type game is gonna be like and we took 2 of 3,” David Ross. “Nice homestand. Another series win. We’re trying to stack those up as much as possible [and did so] against a really good team.”

The Cubs are now 11-1-1 in their last 13 series dating back to mid-July.

“I think it just solidifies the confidence,” Kyle Hendricks said. “We’ve been playing with that anyway. We knew coming in it was going to be a big series — a little more energy, a little more attention from the outside. But we were able to stay locked in, keep it pitch to pitch. That’s what we’ve been doing for the last couple months.

“We know going forward every game is gonna be huge but obviously playing against the leader in your division, you gotta take these. It’s good to get 2 out of 3. But every one moving forward is gonna be a huge game so we gotta keep the same mindset.”

For the second day in a row, the Cubs jumped on one of the Brewers’ co-aces, scoring a pair of runs off Brandon Woodruff in the 1st inning Wednesday.

Hendricks gave up an unearned run in the top of the 3rd on his own throwing error and then the Cubs bullpen surrendered the game-tying run in the 8th inning when Adbert Alzolay hit Mark Canha with the bases loaded.

But the Cubs clawed their way back into the lead in the bottom of the 8th on a Cody Bellinger RBI infield single. Christopher Morel led off the frame by reaching on an error and after Mike Tauchman walked, Nico Hoerner laid down a sacrifice bunt. Ian Happ grounded into a fielder’s choice that nabbed Morel at home but Bellinger bailed out the Cubs with a hard-hit single that deflected off Milwaukee pitcher Joel Payamps. 

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In the top of the 9th, Alzolay shut the door to secure the win for the Cubs.

“That’s what this team has done — they’ve found a way to win for a while now, Ross said. “Scratching, clawing, overcoming adversity. Good teams, bad teams, coming back late in games, tying things up. One swing of the bat in moments, picking up the bullpen that’s picked us up especially here for a while now and being able to answer back with a run.

“Big knock from Belli, Morel coming off the bench. Some really good defensive plays. I talk about the character of this group — they are fun to sit and watch on a daily basis. They got a lot of grit and find a way to win. Any little detail that they can find, they’re trying to find that advantage and take advantage of it.”

Hendricks allowed only an unearned run in 6 innings of work, striking out 6. It was his 6th quality start in his last 9 outings and he improved his season ERA to 3.59.

Since he made his season debut on May 25 after recovering from a shoulder injury, Hendricks ranks 2nd in baseball with 16 starts allowing 3 or fewer earned runs. 

That level of consistency is exactly what the Cubs have needed as they forged their identity in the middle of the summer and emerged as a legitimate playoff contender.

Hendricks has been through it all before, pitching in some of the biggest moments in this franchise’s storied history. But many of the players on this Cubs team have not been in the postseason and have not felt what it is like at Wrigley Field in a playoff-like atmosphere.

Which is what made this week so huge, beating the Brewers’ top two pitchers (Woodruff, Corbin Burnes) on back-to-back days.

“Just feeling a little more energy from the crowd, a little more focus on each pitch,” Hendricks said. “It’s really good to get that experience, get it under our belts now. These guys, they’re such good players, man. Playing in all these close games lately has helped us with that. We really just lock in on each pitch. Don’t make the situation too big but it always helps the more reps you can get.

“To have a couple games like that and still be close, you see the same at-bats out of everybody, not getting too high or too low. It’s a really good sign for the whole group moving forward.”

The Cubs are now off on Thursday before a doubleheader on Friday in Cincinnati. Coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. on Marquee Sports Network.

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