ST. LOUIS – Cubs manager Davis Ross almost always holds a straight face through his postgame interviews. But after the Cubs’ 3-2 win against the Cardinals Friday culminated in a game-saving catch from center fielder Mike Tauchman, a smile kept breaking through.
“We don’t win that game early in the season,” Ross said.
His assessment rang true. Look at the Cubs’ first 16 games decided by two runs or fewer this season. They lost all but two of those contests. And their one-run victory on Friday contained moments that could have spun out of control. But after falling behind 2-0 on a pair of home runs from Lars Nootbaar in the first three innings, the Cubs willed themselves to a win.
“We’ve had some games we’ve probably played better earlier in the year that we lost,” second baseman Nico Hoerner said after the game. “And a lot of things we could have done better today. But at the end of the day, we won. And in this league, that result matters a lot.”
With their victory Friday, the Cubs improved their record to 52-51, their first time holding a winning record since May 6 (17-16). With the Aug. 1 trade deadline rapidly approaching, every win helps their case.
The Cubs’ comeback rally wasn’t flashy. Patrick Wisdom hit a solo homer in the fifth inning to get them part way there. Then the next inning, the Cubs cobbled together three free passes, a Seiya Suzuki double, an opposite-field sacrifice fly from Dansby Swanson, and a go-ahead RBI single by Trey Mancini.
“Guys taking some walks and not expanding and not trying to drive everybody in [with the] bases loaded,” Ross said. “Really patient at-bat there from Trey.”
Patient at-bats have been a recent theme for the Cubs’ surging offense. Mancini watching three straight balls before poking a 3-1 pitch into left field with the bases loaded was a perfect example of their successful team approach.
“Right now we’re playing really good defense, and our offense is hitting on all cylinders and they’re playing really confidently,” said Drew Smyly, who held the Cardinals to a run in 4 ⅓ innings. “And on the pitching side of it, it’s just our job to keep us in the game and give our hitters a chance to take the lead, just like they did [Friday].”
When Hoerner called Tauchman’s catch, which robbed Alec Burleson of a walk-off home run and secured the final out, “the most dramatic single play I‘ve been a part of in the big leagues,” he was looking at the broader picture.
“I’m sure there’s some other stuff,” he said, “but as far as just the game, and where we’re at in the season, and obviously, pretty big implications.”