'Swing hard' motto leads to Cubs' 15-hit outing in win

Bellinger continues torrid stretch as four-RBI day ties his season high

July 23rd, 2023

CHICAGO -- Cubs shortstop spent the past two and a half weeks on the injured list with a bruised left heel, taking in games from a 30,000-foot perspective.

The Cubs have had a bit of an up-and-down stretch coming out of the All-Star break, but their offense has been resilient of late.

“I feel like we've responded well to when other teams have scored, to being able to add a few more runs on our own,” Swanson said. “Our biggest thing is just to stay on the attack, be aggressive and remember we're playing offense.

“There's definitely a lot of good things that you can take away from the last week or so.”

Swanson said that before Saturday’s game -- an 8-6 win over the rival Cardinals at Wrigley Field in which his comments proved prescient. The Cubs erased deficits of 1-0, 3-1, 5-3 and 6-5, and outlasted a one-hour, 27-minute rain delay to win their fourth time in five games.

Swanson was one of five Cubs batters with multiple hits, going 2-for-4 with a double -- off the first pitch he saw in his first plate appearance -- and an RBI single.

Nico Hoerner (three), Ian Happ (two), Cody Bellinger (two) and Seiya Suzuki (three) also had multi-hit games to pace Chicago’s 15-hit offensive attack.

“Kept coming back,” manager David Ross said. “These guys refuse to give up, quit, rollover. It was a back-and-forth game. I think the game is all about the offense today. … These guys are grinding all the way through nine innings.

“It's really helped me and my decision making, and I think the group as a whole, just to know how much fight there is in this group. It was a really nice win.”

The Cubs fell behind 1-0 early. They started reliever Michael Fulmer as an opener, and Lars Nootbaar hit his first pitch for a solo homer.

Swanson, in turn, doubled and then scored on an RBI single by Christopher Morel to tie it at 1.

“Swing hard in case you hit it,” Swanson quipped. “That’s the motto.”

Fulmer pitched the first two innings, and Drew Smyly, whose turn in the rotation was Saturday, followed with 3 2/3 innings in relief. Ross said the Cubs were looking to give the veteran lefty “a little bit of a softer landing to start” the day.

Smyly, who made his first relief appearance since Oct. 2, 2021, with Atlanta, allowed six hits and five runs (four earned). He made a throwing error in the third that preceded two Cardinals runs.

Hoerner, Happ, Bellinger and Swanson each singled in the third to tie the game at 3. In the fifth, doubles by Hoerner and Happ, and a single by Suzuki, tied it at 5. The Cardinals took a 6-5 lead in the sixth, after a pair of walks and a wild pitch by Cubs rookie reliever Daniel Palencia.

Bellinger put the Cubs back in front in the bottom of the sixth with a two-RBI single, continuing his torrid July at the plate with a four-RBI day. Julian Merryweather, Mark Leiter Jr. and Adbert Alzolay combined for three scoreless innings.

“That's the resiliency of this group,” Ross said. “They just continue to fight, no matter what's thrown at them -- me mixing it up a little bit with how the pitching went today and trying to mix and match as best we could. … Luckily the offense kept adding on and some guys locked it down on the backside.”

Every game is important for the Cubs right now as they try to pick up ground in the National League Central race and postseason picture. The Trade Deadline also looms in less than two weeks.

Chicago is in a manageable part of its schedule, has won four of its last five games and now has its All-Star shortstop back -- a boost to the club’s lineup and defense.

“I think Dansby being back was really clear today,” Ross said. “How that lengthened the lineup.”

Saturday’s offensive showing was exactly what Swanson noticed during his absence. Only now, he was part of the effort.

“I felt like today our response was really good in a lot of different innings,” Swanson said. “The game can be played so many different ways. Just being able to prove to ourselves that no matter what way the game goes, we still have a chance to win and compete. 

“We did a really good job of that tonight.”