PHOENIX -- How do you win without a closer? The Cubs' approach on Tuesday night was to score enough runs to not have to deal with a tight late-inning situation, and they did it by wearing down the D-backs' pitching, beginning with Anthony Rizzo's marathon at-bat.Javier Baez and Daniel Murphy
PHOENIX -- How do you win without a closer? The Cubs' approach on Tuesday night was to score enough runs to not have to deal with a tight late-inning situation, and they did it by wearing down the D-backs' pitching, beginning with Anthony Rizzo's marathon at-bat.
Javier Baez and Daniel Murphy hit two-run homers and Rizzo drove in a pair of runs to power the Cubs to a 9-1 victory at Chase Field that opened a 3 1/2-game lead in the National League Central over the Brewers, who lost, 3-1, to the Reds in Milwaukee.
Tuesday was Day 29 of the Cubs' extended stretch of 30 days in a row with a game scheduled, and they're now 18-10 with suitcases full of dirty laundry, looking forward to Thursday's off-day.
"It's going to be unusual to not have to report to a ballpark," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
Rizzo had to go shopping on Tuesday because he underpacked. The Cubs' 30-in-30 stretch hasn't been that bad.
"Honestly, I felt like I had a day off [Monday] coming off a day of travel," Rizzo said. "Usually when you travel out west, you drag a little bit. I think we've done a good job of being ready to play every day with whatever we had that day."
The day didn't begin well for the Cubs, who learned that closer Brandon Morrow was done for the season because of a bone bruise on his right forearm that has sidelined him since mid-July. Rather than create a save situation, the Cubs gave starter Mike Montgomery a nice cushion. The lefty was making his 17th start, a career high, and he struck out a season-high eight batters. The only blemish was a homer by Ketel Marte in the second.
"We've had those injuries that really affect guys and guys have to step up," Montgomery said of the relievers' resiliency. "They've done a great job and they've got a lot of innings and a lot of outings. Playoff baseball, it's a little bit different. Games are a little bit shorter and it's more about win at all costs as opposed to saving guys' arms. We definitely have the guys to do it. We've got 10 or so games left this year and we're feeling pretty confident going into the last stretch."
Chicago's offense has sputtered recently, but the hitters were patient. They didn't have much of a scouting report on D-backs starter Matt Andriese, so they made him throw a lot of pitches. The right-hander lasted two innings, throwing 61 pitches, including 17 in one at-bat to Rizzo, who hit prior to Baez in the first.
"That set up the homer. That set up Javy's home run, no question," Maddon said. "Normally, when you see a guy working an at-bat like that, something good falls for your team offensively."
Rizzo lined out up the middle, but Baez saw Andriese's full repertoire from the on-deck circle and belted his second two-run homer in as many games. He has 33 homers, an NL-leading 107 RBIs and lots of fans in the Phoenix area, who chanted "M-V-P" during each of his at-bats.
The at-bat took close to 10 minutes, so Baez said he started stretching in the on-deck circle.
"It was my first [at-bat] and it kept getting longer and longer, so I started stretching and stretching," Baez said. "He threw me back-to-back changeups, and if he did that, I knew he wasn't going to throw me a fastball. So I just sat on the slider, and he threw it to me middle-middle."
"That's what you want. When you grind at-bats like that, if we continue to do that, I have a strong feeling we'll be where we need to be at the end of the day."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rizzo loosens the lid: The D-backs planned to limit Andriese to about 50 pitches, but they didn't expect one Rizzo at-bat would take up about one-third of them. Murphy singled to lead off the game, and one out later, Rizzo fell behind 0-2. The first baseman fouled off four pitches in a row, then took two more. Then Rizzo fouled off six more pitches before Andriese threw a changeup that was low and outside for a full count. On the 17th pitch, Rizzo lined out to shortstop Nick Ahmed on the second-base side of the bag. Rizzo saw everything Andriese had -- a change, slider, fastball and curve.
"I saw it all," Rizzo said of the at-bat. "I saw how they were going to pitch me the whole night. … When you wear pitchers out like that, we stress all the time, it sets up the next guy and the next guy and the next guy for success."
Andriese said Rizzo's at-bat was key.
"It put me behind the eight-ball there," Andriese said. "I threw everything at him. I threw all four pitches, pretty good locations. He was fouling it off. It was a good battle. When I know I'm on a limited pitch count, that drove that up real quick, just being out there for two innings there, it was way too many pitches. That was the moral of the story."
HE SAID IT
"Everything is trending in the right direction. Every day we have to go out and Javy needs to be Javy and Kris [Bryant] needs to be Kris. Guys need to be themselves and put really good at-bats together, and the more we do that, the more success we'll have." -- Rizzo
"Obviously, this rotation is going well right now. I wanted to jump in line and be a guy who goes out there and gives us as many innings as we can." -- Montgomery
Cole Hamels (4-0, 1.57 ERA) will close the Cubs' 30-in-30 stretch and start Wednesday's series finale against the D-backs and fellow lefty Robbie Ray (5-2, 4.14). Hamels has not gotten a decision in his last four starts, with the Cubs going 2-2 in those games. In his last outing, he gave up two runs over 6 2/3 innings against the Reds. He last faced the D-backs on Aug. 23, 2013. First pitch is scheduled for 8:40 p.m. CT.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.