CHICAGO -- Just like that, it's starting to feel a lot like 2016 again for the Chicago Cubs. On consecutive days, they've snatched victory from defeat, thanks to a high-powered offense that led the league last year in wins (eight) after trailing after eight innings. They got their first ninth-inning comeback win of this season Wednesday, when Addison Russell capped a four-run frame against the Brewers with a walk-off, three-run homer off reliever Neftali Feliz.
"When you count us out, we seem to have a spark," Russell said after the 7-4 win. "All it takes is one hit, one walk, and we get rolling."
A walk by Jon Jay, then a pinch-hit single from Miguel Montero set the stage for MVP Kris Bryant's first (regular-season) game-tying hit in the ninth inning or later in his career, which was followed by Russell's blast.
Yes, this game felt very much like the 2016 Cubs.
"We keep on coming back for more," manager Joe Maddon said. "It's really one of those ugly wins, but you'll take it any day of the week. It is the resiliency. It is the fact that we don't quit. It's on the ring: 'We Don't Quit' [sic]. It's on the ring, man. It's a perfect example today."
Maddon was referring to the World Series rings the players received at the beginning of the homestand, in one of several ceremonies celebrating last year's run that prompted players to describe this past week as "emotional." Now they can start a nine-game road trip feeling a lot better about themselves after dropping below .500 for a moment. Two come-from-behind wins will do that.
"You definitely want to go into Cincinnati with the sense we can come back in any part of the game," Russell said. "That's what we did today. Just don't give up. That's the type of style that we play."
A clutch Russell hit is a throwback to last season, as is the Cubs' ability to pick each other up when there's failure. Three of their young players struck out in the eighth inning with men on base, including Albert Almora Jr., who had the tying run 90 feet away with one out. He struck out in an epic, 11-pitch at-bat.
It looked like the Brewers would survive. Then came the ninth-inning heroics.
"I didn't get the job done," Almora said. "We were still confident coming into the ninth inning. We did the job today."
Not everything felt like 2016, however, as Kyle Hendricks is off to a bad start. He gave up two home runs and tied a career high with four walks Wednesday. But the bullpen was there to pick him up. In fact, it was the second consecutive day that the relief staff picked up a starter. That's a change from just a few days ago, when the bullpen couldn't hold even a small deficit, let alone a lead.
"We did a better job of taking care of the latter part of the game," Maddon said.
That allowed for the late-inning dramatics, which included a bloop single to right by Russell the inning before his home run. That hit "got him going," Maddon noted. The Cubs haven't made the best contact in key spots this season, but perhaps they're coming around.
"I want us to move the baseball better in certain situations and not succumb to the strikeout," Maddon said. "We were better last year at that. We need to get back to that."
At 8-7, the Cubs are hardly firing on all cylinders, but all they need to do for now is keep their heads above water until things really click. The past two days provide for that, giving them a moment to breathe. A Wednesday night charity event featuring the entire organization will feel a lot better after their latest two wins. And you better believe there will be plenty wearing their rings.
"We Never Quit" was an appropriate refrain on Wednesday.
"That was an unbelievable win today," Hendricks said. "There's been a lot going on. A lot of outside factors pushing against us, so to be able to focus on the game and get big wins ... these teams we're playing are coming for us. The target is on our backs."
Said Maddon: "It's been an emotional week. It's been a nice conclusion to it."