It has been one step forward, two steps back for the Cubs during the first four weeks of the season, but they slowly might be starting to pick things up.
A team can’t win a division in April, but it certainly can make things tough on itself, and the Cubs appeared to be heading in that direction after four consecutive series losses. But with only one direction to go and the National League Central-leading Brewers coming to town Friday, the Cubs caught the Mets at the right time and have gotten themselves back on track.
Thursday’s series finale looked like it was going to get away from the Cubs, but after giving up the lead late, they were able to secure their first series sweep of the season on Jason Heyward’s 10th inning walk-off single, sending the Cubs to a 4-3 win.
“I think that’s a good character win right there,” manager David Ross said. “Things weren’t playing out the way I think we wanted and felt like we didn’t come through in some moments, but guys stepped up, made pitches, made plays and we came through with the big knock there at the end for [Jason Heyward].
“Sometimes, you don’t execute everything that you want to in a game, but when you come away with a win, you feel really good, especially after a grinder like that.”
The Cubs are going to have to find different ways to win to have success this season, and during the three-game series against New York, that’s what they did. In Wednesday’s 16-4 blowout win, the offense did the heavy lifting.
Strong starting pitching and defense along with some timely hitting got the job done Tuesday in the Cubs’ 3-1 victory and while it won’t always be pretty like in Thursday’s walk-off win, stacking up wins against a team considered to be one of the best in the NL is valuable.
“I think overall it was a tremendous team win,” said starter Trevor Williams who allowed two runs over five innings in Thursday’s win.
The Cubs aren’t going to burn on the basepaths, but against the Mets, they weren’t afraid to push the envelope on the bases, swiping a few bags and taking the extra base, which not only helped put runs on the board but forced New York into several costly mistakes.
The Mets made six errors during the three-game series and a few mental mistakes, and it seemed as if every time they happened, the Cubs made them pay.
“I think that’s important in this type of weather,” Ross said Wednesday. “Because I don’t think you can rely on the home run. ‘I think the little details in games with the cold weather and the wind blowing in here at Wrigley, you need the baserunning and the defense.
“If we need to do the little things, I think that’s what’s going to help us win ballgames. That’s championship baseball. Running the bases well. Playing good defense. We get good pitching and we get some timely hitting, that’s a formula for success. That’s nice to see.”
The Cubs have talked about the team they want to be during their early ups and downs, but they started to play like a team that has its eyes on winning a division.
One of the next objectives the Cubs will have to figure out is playing better against teams in the NL Central. They’re 5-7 against the division, and with Milwaukee coming in and the Reds waiting at the end of their next homestand, they’ll have an opportunity to make up ground.
“I think for us to get our first sweep of the season,” Williams said. “I think it was a real step forward for us to put behind the previous three weeks and we’re starting to ride that flow, so I think it’s something that was really good for us overall as a team to win these last three games and go into a division series to finish up the homestand and get on to Atlanta.”