Cubs show grit to get back on track in extras

May 19th, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- Order was restored at Miller Park although it took some time; exactly five hours as a matter of fact, starting Wednesday night, ending Thursday morning.

The Chicago Cubs emerged with a 2-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers that required 13 innings.

"If you're going to play that long, might as well win," said Kris Bryant, who played left field, third base and first base, as manager Joe Maddon maneuvered through the long night.

The Cubs used 21 players; everybody but the four starting pitchers who didn't work in this game. At the end, lefty reliever Travis Wood was twice a winner. He worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the bottom of the 12th, getting three popups, as Maddon went temporarily to a five-man infield.

Then in the top of the 13th, Wood drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in what became the deciding run. "If any game was a team victory today was," Wood said. That was a nice sentiment from a man who was both the winning pitcher and the fellow who drove in the game-winning run.

"When he came into the game I said: 'Understand one thing: If you get out of this, you're getting an at-bat,' " Maddon said. "That jacked him up. That's just how he operates."

This triumph followed the only thing that has resembled a lull in the Cubs 2016 performance. The Cubs were in danger of losing three straight games for the first time this season. When your record is 27-10 coming in you have not left much room for losing streaks of any duration.

And the Cubs had lost to the Brewers on Tuesday night, when they were no-hit for seven innings by Chase Anderson. He entered the game with a 6.11 earned run average, not to mention an ERA of 8.88 over his past five starts.

Wednesday night, the degree of difficulty was notably increased, because the Cubs had to go against the Brewers best starting pitcher so far this season, Jimmy Nelson.

The Cubs never actually scored off Nelson, who left the game with 7 1/3 innings of shutout pitching to his credit. "Their guy today had awesome stuff," Bryant said of Nelson.

But the Cubs pitchers did not allow the Brewers to score after the fifth inning. The Cubs still trailed 1-0 going into the ninth, but here they did set a precedent. Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress was 11-for-11 in save opportunities this season. Now, he is 11-for-12.

The Cubs used a single, a hit batsman and two groundouts to second to tie this game. The tying grounder to second was produced by shortstop Addison Russell.

In total, this performance, in what was either a one-run-game or a tie game for all five hours, reinforced the Cubs' healthy self-image.

"It's pretty impressive whenever you win a game like that on the road that really says a lot about your group," Maddon said. "We hit the ball well all night long. To say that you hit the ball well in a 2-1 victory in 13 innings is kind of like, 'I'm an idiot.' But I'm not. We actually swung the bat really well, but their defense, to coin an old phrase, was Johnny on the spot."

There were plenty of opportunities for the Cubs to become frustrated. They were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position and they left 14 men on base. But part of being a 2016 Cub is rising above the disappointments that the game can offer.

"I felt good all night, I swear I did," Maddon said. "You watch games like that and understand one thing: There's a lot of awkward stuff that occurred against us and we didn't quit. That really speaks loudly about your group.

"The whole team participated in that victory. And when everybody has ownership, that makes everything a little bit better. All the little things we did tonight in a very difficult win, makes the whole thing better. There's so much energy in victory, it's incredible."

These Cubs have had plenty of practice with victory, and thus, with supplying themselves with energy. Here they escaped a bases-loaded, no-out situation with the game on the line and then scratched and clawed for one more run. This is precisely the kind of game that the Cubs couldn't have expected to win in the past. And now, winning looks like second nature to this team.