PHOENIX — The message for the Cubs coming out of the All-Star break was to take things one game at a time. While it’s one of the oldest cliches in baseball, you can’t blame them after the way the last month had gone.
That approach came in handy Saturday against the Diamondbacks. The Cubs trailed almost the entire way before turning the game on its head with two outs in the ninth inning. They scored three runs in the ninth, capped by a two-run home run by Willson Contreras, in a 4-2 victory.
It was the Cubs’ first victory when trailing entering the ninth since Sept. 12 of last season against the Brewers.
”That was fun,” manager David Ross said. ”We’ve been waiting for some of those for a while. It was nice. I saw that group we saw early on [in the season]. Just not giving up, coming through and continuing to fight. I know that’s what these guys have got inside of them.”
The Cubs’ offense was punchless for 8? innings, but something happened with one out to go.
Outfielder Rafael Ortega got the rally started with a double against Diamondbacks closer Joakim Soria to put the tying run in scoring position. Ross then turned to pinch hitter Robinson Chirinos, who ripped an RBI single to left on the first pitch to tie the score at 2.
”Facing Joakim, I’ve played with him,” Chirinos said. ”I know how he likes to attack hitters. I was telling myself: ‘You don’t need a homer right now; you just need a hit. Stay short.’ I was looking for that pitch, and he threw it in the spot I was looking for it.”
With the score tied, Contreras came up with the biggest swing of the game. He knows he’s an emotional guy, but in a moment in which many hitters might let those emotions take them out of their approach, Contreras wanted to focus on the task at hand.
That’s exactly what he did, crushing a two-run homer to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead and send a crowd full of Cubs fans into a frenzy at Chase Field.
”To be honest, I wasn’t overthinking the situation,” Contreras said. ”I went up there to take one more at-bat and hopefully do something good for the team. It was a nice spot to be in.
”Of course, I wasn’t expecting to hit a homer. I was trying to get a good pitch to hit, which I did. It felt really good to do something small to help this team to win.”
Contreras was critical of the Cubs’ effort before the break, but the energy he was looking for came through in a big way Saturday.
”I told my guys to start from zero,” Contreras said. ”Let’s do it. Because I believe in this team. I believe in the talent that we have. . . . June was a tough month, but it’s already over. We’re looking forward to playing better baseball. We’re just looking forward to competing to the last out, like today.”
The victory assured the Cubs of winning their first series since June 11-13 against the Cardinals.
”I feel it’s a really good win for the team overall,” said Cubs starter Adbert Alzolay, who allowed two runs in five innings. ”Just keep the energy going here.”