Catcher Koyie Hill acknowleged the mindset of the team has definitely changed in the past few days.
“We just all made an agreement with each other that we’re going to do whatever we need to do,” Hill said. “Maybe there’s a little more urgency in that department. You’ve got 25 guys in here that are playing for each other and not much else. I think that helps.”
Whatever it is that has gotten into this team, the bottom line is that they’re playing better ball. Great starting pitching -- Doug Davis allowed only one run in 7 1/3 innings -- and a packed ballpark -- a crowd of 42,219 marked the fifth consecutive game where the Cubs drew at least 39,000 -- has definitely helped.
Cubs manager Mike Quade praised his battery of Davis and Hill for its strong performance on Friday.
“[They] just confounded them; He and Hilly were incredible,” said Quade. “[Davis] threw more strikes today and he was around the plate more. Today he had everything that he has to offer [working]. That’s a pretty [darn] good lineup they were getting out too.”
Davis shut down an offense that boasts two of the three co-leaders in home runs. Yankees’ sluggers Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are tied with Toronto Blue Jays' outfielder Jose Bautista atop baseball with 21 homers.
However, as great as Davis’ surprising performance was, the talk of the clubhouse seemed to be the playoff-like atmosphere at Wrigley. It’s a feeling that’s definitely been lacking this season, and Quade said that it not only was it the biggest crowd of the season, but the best.
Davis said the crowd helped him get that extra boost when he needed it.
“[The atmosphere] was awesome; It was more than expected for sure,” Davis said. “Everyone was into the game and you get those extra butterflies when you strike a guy out . . . definitely keeps you going.”
Outfielder Reed Johnson helped add to fans’ excitement when he came into the game in the ninth for his defense and got the crowd on their feet with a spectacular catch for the first out of the inning.
“I think it’s good for the younger players and good for the guys that have never played here,” Johnson said. “They can see how fun it will be here when we do win. To finally see that atmosphere again, it’s a good thing.”
It’s no doubt fun for the fans to watch a team win some games, but it’s having fun on the field that the Cubs had apparently not been doing.
“We just can’t forget that the game is fun,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you get caught up in the pressure of the game or the pressure of the city and we forget to have fun playing baseball.”
Although the Cubs still sit 11 games under .500 at 29-40, beating strong teams like the Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers to get back on the winning track is the best way to make things fun once again. And if this recent stretch has been enjoyable for the Cubs, getting their first three-game winning streak of the season -- something they would accomplish with a win on Saturday --would be sublime.