And with that, came at least a small sigh of relief.
“It was nice to win a game after three not-so-nice games,” said Bryant, the reigning most valuable player in the National League.
In the three contests against the Brewers, the Cubs scored all of three runs and saw their division lead narrow to two games. In a season in which the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians have taken turns looking unbeatable, the Cubs, with a current record of 78-66, have looked just good enough to repeat as division winners, but nothing more.
But the awful weekend against the Brewers raised the possibility that the Cubs won’t even be able to do that and might not make it as a wild-card team, either. Or at least it raised that possibility in the minds of Cubs fans, who, 2016 aside, have spent a lifetime being disappointed by their team. In the Cub clubhouse before Tuesday’s game, however, the mood was decidedly more upbeat.
“I tell everyone, take the positives out of everything to this point, where we are, coming out of the greatest championship in sports history and in position to win the division again,” Rizzo said. “I think everyone needs to start rallying around us more now instead of maybe panicking a little bit.”
And, Rizzo added, “We’re going to get hot.”
That would help. Of the Cubs’ remaining 18 games, 11 will be played against the Cardinals and Brewers.
The Cardinals, who remain two games back after a victory on Tuesday night against Cincinnati, arrive at Wrigley Field this weekend. The Cubs then travel to Milwaukee, who are now two and a half games out, and St. Louis for eight straight games later this month before they finish the season at home, against the Reds.
Whether that final weekend of the season will be triumphant or nerve-racking remains to be seen.
“We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves,” Bryant said. “No team is just going to roll over.”
Meanwhile, his manager, Joe Maddon, has remained as unflappable as ever and chose not to do anything different — like calling a team meeting — in the wake of the sweep by the Brewers.
“When things tighten up like this, they need you to be consistent, not inconsistent,” Maddon said. “If I were to do something like that — that is something I would never do. It would send all the wrong signals.”
Maddon has instead stuck to his script, seeming to understand that if the Cubs are going to win another championship this season (their title in 1908, after all, followed one in 1907) it will have to be along a bumpier road than last season’s. And he is fine with that.
“I’ve often told my players perfection is a boring concept,” he said. “If it was that easy to do, nobody would ever do it. I like the fact that it’s difficult right now, and I think that we should learn something about ourselves going forward. The biggest thing to learn is that it’s not about anybody else. It’s about us playing well. If we play well and take care of our business, we’ll be fine.”