CHICAGO – American Legion week has come and gone, and the Cubs can declare victory and go home.
Or more accurately, they can go on the road, feeling reasonably fresh in mind and body.
They finished a seven-game homestand with a record of 6-1 after a split decision Wednesday against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field.
Ben Zobrist’s RBI single with the bases loaded in the 11th inning gave the Cubs a 2-1 victory in the conclusion of Tuesday night’s suspended game, which was halted by rain.
In the second game, the Mets got a grand slam from Todd Frazier in the first inning off Alec Mills and went on to a 10-3 win.
The Cubs had their seven-game winning streak snapped. But they finished the homestand – and manager Joe Maddon’s American Legion week – with a 6-1 record.
Since his first year as Cubs manager in 2015, Maddon has done a Legion week each year, requiring players to arrive at the ballpark later in the day and ease off on the pregame work. The result is a four-year record of 20-3 in those games.
The Cubs have played nine games in nine days as part of their current stretch of 23 games in 23 days. They hit the road for a four-city road trip after Wednesday’s split.
“We played well at home,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who went 4 for 5 in the first game and is 12 for 21 over his past five games. “It’s a good homestand for us going into a long road trip, coming out today and getting a walk-off win. Obviously, we didn’t win this (second) game, but this is a nice road trip for us. Put our heads down through it, get back and you have more weeks left of the season.”
Maddon gave regulars Javy Baez, Jason Heyward and Daniel Murphy the second game off. He said he’s seeing no signs of fatigue from his troops.
“I don’t feel fatigued; I don’t think the guys do either,” said Maddon, whose team is 78-54. “That was the whole point, to not feel fatigued going into this stretch. When you win six out of seven at home, that always provides energy. Here comes September to help out a little bit more. The (cooler) weather was really advantageous today. That mattered, to not be 100-and-some degrees or whatever.”
Zobrist entered the first game Tuesday night as a pinch hitter and remained in. He stroked a single up the middle to score Baez with the winning run after play was resumed Wednesday. He has been at or near the top of the National League in batting average in recent days. He went 1 for 4 in the second game and has a line of .312/.391/.461.
Last season, Zobrist hit .232/.318/.375. He insists he has not sipped from the Fountain of Youth.
“No, I’m just in a good rhythm right now with my body and doing the best I can with our training staff to make sure that I’m ready to play as much as they put me in there,” the 37-year-old said. “They’ve given me good rest, and I’m in a good rhythm.”
Like Rizzo and Maddon, Zobrist said he thinks the team checks out well during this run of games.
“Last night and this morning was a little bit difficult of a turnaround,” he said. “But I think we’re OK. We’ll get a little help, too, once it turns September (with rosters expanding to 40 spots and players coming back from injury). We’ll get a couple extra guys, and that’ll probably help in the middle of this. We just keep rolling and trying to keep the momentum up as a team and get as many [wins] as you can.”