Cubs Come Out Clicking Back Home

"We needed that," Willson Contreras said of the Cubs' 10-0 win against the Pirates.

Chris Emma
April 08, 2019 - 6:44 pm
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) and left-hander Jon Lester (34) celebrate.

Patrick Gorski/USA Today Sports

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- The fanfare of a new baseball season in Wrigleyville had just begun to arrive in the neighborhood Monday morning as the Cubs took the field some four hours before a 1:20 p.m. first pitch against the Pirates.

The more collective and focused batting practice and fielding work from the entire group was an example of the renewed approach to which president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and his Cubs brass have often stressed for this season of "reckoning," as he said this offseason. The hope is a commitment to each day will bring the results it did in a 10-0 win over the Pirates in the home opener at Wrigley Field.

But after starting 2-7 before the victory Monday afternoon, the narrative surrounding a sense of urgency was bugging Epstein and manager Joe Maddon.

"I just want the sense of today," Maddon said.

Related: Photos: Cubs rout Pirates in home opener

Indeed, Monday's today brought something new for these Cubs -- seven shutout innings of relief from an embattled bullpen, which picked up left-hander Jon Lester after he left in the third inning with left hamstring tightness.

After licking their wounds for amid and after a nine-game road trip, the Cubs looked like the Cubs once again back at Wrigley Field.

"We needed that," catcher Willson Contreras said.

Lester said the Cubs simply being back in their own beds Sunday night was part of their victory Monday, as they were coming off 11 straight nights in hotels since breaking camp in spring training. Celebrating with the music blaring in the postgame clubhouse must have been a needed boost too.

The return to normalcy is what Epstein had prescribed for his team after a disheartening start to the season. Nine games don't offer proof to his plan, but they definitely caused a lot of outside noise.

Wins like these for the Cubs remind those in the clubhouse -- and the 40,692 inside Wrigley Field on Monday -- how much talent this team has. At least for a day, it also quiets the talk still permeating from a difficult offseason for the organization,

Epstein emphasized again Monday that the Cubs don't have a financial resources issue. His comments came two days after he took responsibility for the Cubs' poor start and hours after owner Tom Ricketts called upon the players to step up.

The Cubs hope that another playoff berth in 2019 and a deep run in October can come with changes like more frequent and focused pregame work, among other details.

"There's a lot of belief that we're a really good team and it will manifest over time," Epstein said.

But the constant outside talk of "urgency" has been misconstrued in Epstein's view -- to the point that he even let out a laugh discussing it.

Epstein knows April statistics are fickle, and he stood confident that the bullpen's collective 8.37 ERA in the first nine games along with the team's poor defensive play could be rectified.

"It's taken on a life of its own as a narrative," Epstein said. "It's something that our players feel and we want to make sure we do every day, which is show up and put our best foot forward every single day, avoid any type of complacency. That narrative is completely over inside the clubhouse. I know until we start winning, it's going to be perpetuated outside. 

"Our guys are professional. They're preparing hard each day. They're showing up focused and ready to win. We just haven't played well."

Five games -- two more against the Pirates and three against the Angels -- remain on the homestand after the Cubs improved to 3-7. For Epstein, Maddon and the 25 players in the clubhouse, simply finding their form back home at Wrigley Field would help move them past their early struggles. 

For at least one day, the Cubs felt a sense of winning.

"We'll take it," Maddon said. "The offense for the most part has been percolating. We need to get the pitching re-established. Once it does, we have a pretty good shot to get toasty."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​