The Chicago Cubs came into Sunday’s series finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks with only five home games left before Friday’s trade deadline.
The uncertainty of what the next few days will bring hovers over the Cubs and the unknown of who, specifically their stars, will still be with the organization by the end of the week. A 5-1 Cubs victory Sunday in front of 32,602 fans at Wrigley Field to win the series temporarily diverted attention from what might happen.
Before the game, manager David Ross noted it would be naïve to think the trade deadline and all that comes with it hasn’t affected the Cubs, particularly the players who have been with the organization the longest and experienced their level of success over the last five years. Even as Cubs players continue to publicly preach a one-day-at-a-time approach and controlling what they can control, they’re not robots. It’s understandable external distractions can seep in.
“Looking up on the board at the numbers of these guys, it’s very uncharacteristic of who they have been so, I mean, that has to be a factor,” Ross said. “The group has been together for so long, and we’ve got a number of free agents, so I think that’s natural. I don’t know but I would assume and you see the guys trying harder when things did go a little bit sideways and went sideways hard — guys are trying extremely hard — so yeah, I would say that’s a decent assessment.”
Two Cubs whose future could be heading on a different path, regardless of what happens before the trade deadline, teamed up again to spark the offense Sunday. For the seventh time in their careers and first in more than two years, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo went back-to-back. Bryant (two-run homer) and Anthony Rizzo (solo) went deep in the first inning versus Diamondbacks left-hander Caleb Smith for a quick lead.
All of the Cubs offense came from the long ball. David Bote connected for a two-run homer in the fourth in his first game off the injured list.
Javier Báez went down past first base briefly in the eighth after trying to beat out a grounder up the middle. Báez walked off under his own power, and Ross sounded encouraged that he played shortstop in the ninth. Ross didn’t specify what was bothering Báez, only saying it is a lower-body injury below the knee, and said an update would be provided Monday.
The vibe at Wrigley felt different this weekend, a sense that Cubs fans recognize this might be their last opportunities to see players such as Bryant, Rizzo and Báez playing together in blue pinstripes. That buzz should carry over into the Cubs’ four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds that begins Monday night — the final home games before the trade deadline.
Rizzo didn’t offer his perspective as to whether the Wrigley crowd was nostalgic the past couple of days, instead chalking it up to the nice weather on a weekend and the way Cubs fans always bring energy in their support of the team. However, he alluded to how this journey over the past decade with the Cubs always has been a family affair, whether it be his foundation or his wife and parents.
“I mean, that’s just every day I feel like I carry that with me,” Rizzo said. “As far as the sentimental stuff, I’ll have to save that one for another time, but at the appropriate time, I would definitely address all that. But with the next five days, there’s going to be a lot more rumors. I’m sure the whole trade market in general is going to be heating up, and we’ll see what happens.”
Right-hander Trevor Williams, who delivered arguably his best start of 2021 with a season-high 6⅓ scoreless innings, has spent the last six months getting a different look at the Cubs’ core group responsible for so much of the franchise’s success. He faced the Cubs 13 times during his five big-league seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates and now he’s on the other side. Instead of game planning how to neutralize them, he’s watching his teammates and the star trio of impending free agents deal with the inevitable scrutiny that comes with the Cubs being sellers.
“It’s part of the game that unfortunately exists, the trade deadline happens every year,” Williams said. “We’re professionals in this clubhouse and from what I see, we do a great job of tuning it out and knowing that today we have the Diamondbacks and we played a great ballgame from pitch to pitch and we came up with a winner.
“I know the guys are going to show up tomorrow ready to go from pitch one against the Reds.”