Playing at home could be what the Cubs (and Kris Bryant) need

MILWAUKEE -- Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon claims he wants his team to host the wild-card game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday simply so Cubs fans can attend.

They still might, thanks to the Cubs' 1-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers combined with the Cincinnati Reds' defeat of the Pirates on Saturday night. It drew the Cubs to within a game of Pittsburgh with one to play.

The Cubs hold the tiebreaker over the Pirates after winning the season series 11-8.

"For me it's all about the fans," Maddon said after Saturday's game. "That's No. 1."

Maybe it should be about more than the fans when you consider one of the Cubs' best hitters, rookie Kris Bryant, is so much better at Wrigley Field than on the road. An 0-for-5 performance Saturday against the Brewers dropped his season average and OPS on the road to .241/.693 compared to .311/1.037 at home. Bryant stranded eight runners, including several at third with fewer than two outs.

"It's not like it was anything new tonight, leaving runners at third base," Maddon said of his team. "We left way too many guys on base. Opportunities all night long."

The Cubs bring home about 41 percent of runners from third with fewer than two outs, worst in the league. If that trend continues into the postseason, they'll need to keep pitching the way they have over the past week. During their current seven-game win streak, Cubs starters have combined to give up only one run. Kyle Hendricks was the latest star on the mound as he allowed only one base runner over six shutout innings Saturday.

"It was Kyle's best performance of the year," Maddon said.

They might need another one like it Sunday from Dan Haren considering the middle of the order simply couldn't produce any add-on runs. Maddon says it's all about what they're swinging at with men on, not necessarily the swings themselves.

"Just not swing at pitchers in the dirt would really help," he said. "It's pitch selection. It has nothing to do with physical mechanics."

But even in stranding 12 baserunners, the Cubs still came up with the victory. Their magical season can continue at home Wednesday if they win and the Pirates lose again to the Reds on Sunday. Maddon was planning on treating the day like a spring training game. Not any longer.

"We'll play it straight up," he said. "You'll see the typical lineup."

So that means Bryant and Anthony Rizzo will get one more opportunity to reach 100 RBIs, as both are stuck on 99. In fact, Bryant has been there all week. Maybe he only needs something at stake to find his groove again. A win Sunday means possibly another home game at storied Wrigley Field. That should be motivation alone.

"For me it's all about the fans," Maddon said. "Beyond that I don't see any significance."

Except for Bryant's production. That's significant. And it's better at Wrigley Field.