Bote hears 'sick' news, then channels Ryno

Slugger achieves first 7-RBI feat by Cubs 2B since Sandberg Game

June 6th, 2019

CHICAGO -- headed down behind the dugout during the second inning on Wednesday night to watch some video. The Cubs second baseman wanted to see how Rockies starter German Marquez approached in the opening frame before he stepped into the batter's box himself.

That is when Bote heard the news. Early on, during Chicago's 9-8 win over Colorado, broadcasters Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies were discussing the swirling reports that the Cubs had reached an agreement on a multiyear deal to bring star closer into the fold. Bote ran back to the field with a little more adrenaline than had already been pumping.

"I was like, 'Sick!'" Bote said with a laugh. "That's awesome. I'm super excited."

How did Bote celebrate the news? He went out and collected career highs in hits (four) and RBIs (seven) in one of the best offensive performances in the Cubs' long, storied history. Bote joined Ed Bailey (July 22, 1965) and Heinie Zimmerman (June 11, 1911) as the only Cubs players in recorded history to have four hits and at least seven RBIs in only four plate appearances.

That helped overcome a tough night for the Cubs' bullpen and propelled the North Siders back into first place alone atop the National League Central.

Against Marquez, Bote singled to right in the third and launched a three-run home run into the left-center bleacher seats in the fifth. He then capped off a five-run rally in the sixth with a three-run double into the left-field corner off lefty Chris Rusin. In the eighth, Bote pushed another offering to right field -- this time against Bryan Shaw -- for an RBI single that provided a crucial insurance run.

As Bote settled into his stance in the eighth, the Wrigley Field crowd unleashed chants of his name: "BO-TE! BO-TE!"

"That never gets old," he said with a grin.

Bote's performance gave him a .425/.465/.825 slash line over his past 15 games, in which he has four homers and 14 RBIs in 43 plate appearances. That comes after a 14-game stretch that saw Bote post a .476 OPS with a 56.8 percent ground-ball rate. In the next 14 games, leading up to Wednesday, Bote trimmed the ground-ball rate to 28 percent and returned to a more opposite-field approach (28 percent in the last 14 games vs. 18.9 percent in the 14-game slump).

On the season, Bote is now batting .289 with an .866 OPS and 126 wRC+, indicating he has performed 26 percent better than league average as a hitter.

"He has befriended right-center," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I didn't realize the [recent] numbers were that heavy, but I knew that he'd been swinging the bat much better. For me, from the side, it's a shorter approach. It's a more handsy approach, and it's a more centered approach, and that's why I think you’re seeing a better result."

There could be an inspired debate over which tilt should now be called The David Bote Game. Fans could easily go with this one, given the all-around output from the second baseman. More likely, though, Cubs fans would stick with Aug. 12 of last season, when Bote belted a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam against the Nationals.

There is no debating when The Ryne Sandberg Game took place. That was June 23, 1984, and Bote is more than familiar with that one.

"Oh, yeah. I see it on the board every game," Bote said. "They pull up the legendary moments."

In that game, more than three decades ago, Sandberg had two homers, five hits and seven RBIs in a wild 12-11 win over the rival Cardinals. Prior to Bote's performance against the Rockies -- the team he grew up watching as a kid in Colorado -- Sandberg's performance marked the last seven-RBI showing by a Cubs second baseman.

Bote now joins Sandberg, Rogers Hornsby (twice in 1931) and Zimmerman as the only second basemen in team history with at least seven RBIs in a single contest.

Of course, this day will not only be remembered for what Bote did on the field. Fans will also look back on this day fondly due to what the front office pulled off behind the scenes.

Word of Kimbrel's deal -- one expected to become official after he completes a physical -- spread through the dugout during the game and continued to dominate the conversation following the win. Bote may have learned about it from the TV broadcast, but first baseman caught wind of the news before the game began.

"I had a source," Rizzo said with a smirk. "I really wanted to beat you all to it. I could've, but I didn't know what the protocol was with that. It wasn't 100 percent, but it was fairly up there."

And Rizzo was excited about what the pending addition of Kimbrel represented.

"This is big. It's a credit to them believing in us," Rizzo said. "This is what we're trying to do. We're trying to win the last game of the season this year. The World Series. It's not just get to the playoffs and hope for the best. Our expectations are set through the roof."

Veteran starter agreed.

"It's like getting a gift on Christmas morning and having to wait to open it for a week or so before he's here," Lester said. "I think it'll kind of more set in when he actually shows up and is in uniform with us and pitching. Right now, I think guys are excited about it. Obviously, it just adds depth to our already pretty good bullpen."