CHICAGO -- Perhaps losing six in a row on a recent West Coast trip was the best thing to happen to the Chicago Cubs. It seems like it was the quintessential wake-up call, as they're now one game from getting all six of those losses back. They beat the Miami Marlins 10-2 on Tuesday night.
The difference? The offense is playing with a sense of purpose and urgency again.
"We're just trying to do our part," right fielder Jason Heyward said after his three-hit night. "It starts in the clubhouse. It starts in the dugout. It starts with us being together. It starts with the hitters feeling like the dugout and your teammates are with you every at-bat. That's what we want to feel."
That last thought was one uttered a lot in 2016, but it has been slow to resonate this season. After a 7-2 home stand was followed by an 0-6 road trip to close the month of May, no one knew what to think of the Cubs. But a quick team meeting and some home cooking have made the difference at the plate. The narrative Tuesday, for once, wasn't about the long ball -- at least not after Anthony Rizzo's fifth-inning blast.
The three-run shot was enough to secure the win, but the Cubs were far more pleased with what they did two innings later: six hits, one walk, six runs scored -- and not one ball left the yard in the seventh. Their .236 team batting average, good for 13th in the NL coming into the game, got a spike.
Jason Heyward had three hits Tuesday to lead a potent Cubs attack.. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
"Just to have some balls land on the grass and score some runs that way was kind of nice to do," manager Joe Maddon said.
For the Cubs to truly be the dynamic offensive team that everyone believes they can be, they need more nights such as this. Six walks and 11 hits will net you a lot of double-digit scoring nights. Every starter save Addison Russell had at least one base knock Tuesday.
"Big nights from a lot of guys," winning pitcher Jake Arrieta said. "Showcasing some slug with the conditions we had tonight is all-around impressive."
Arrieta's two-hit performance shouldn't be forgotten, but when an offense comes alive, as it has for the Cubs the past five games, it energizes everyone. It's the opposite of what happens when a team isn't hitting. Players tend to look lethargic and even uncaring. Perhaps that's why Maddon has expressed an "uptick" in the dugout vibe since the team returned home. That might also be related to the entire team being involved on offense, instead of one or two guys a night via the long ball.
"You can never hit too many home runs," Rizzo said with a smile. "But we knew it was a solid week when someone didn't [just] drive a run in via the long ball."
In other words, they'll take the home runs, but that can't be the main way back to the World Series. The best teams can beat you different ways, even if that is a work in progress right now. As long as the Cubs are moving in the right direction, the division has given them time to find it again.
"It takes time to build," Heyward said. "We have to keep building. We've talked about doing everything with a purpose."
There was purpose in that seventh inning when Kris Bryant doubled. Then Rizzo singled him home. Moments later, Heyward had an RBI double followed by an Albert Almora Jr. single before Javier Baez and Jon Jay had run-scoring doubles. The line kept on moving.
That 0-6 road trip has a rear-view-mirror feel to it right now, and it could signify a true turning point if the Cubs keep it up.
"It increases the sense of urgency a little bit," Arrieta said. "Just maybe trying to get locked in a little more, as far as our mental approach.
"We've been doing that, and it's starting to pay off."