WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Maybe all it took was a trip back to their childhood. It’s as good an explanation as any for the Chicago Cubs finally winning a road series Sunday night with a 7-1 victory the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Little League Classic. After a day and evening of being reminded what the game is all about, the Cubs finally, mercifully, won their first road series in exactly three months, taking two of three from the Pirates.
“I would imagine every major league team would like to do this,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of coming to Williamsport. “It is exciting. It is pure. It is what it’s supposed to look like.”
And it could be just what the Cubs needed. The pressure of yet another pennant race doesn’t apply to the Pirates, who have fallen far out of the hunt since the All-Star break. And they’ve played at Williamsport before and probably will come again, given their proximity. But for the Cubs, it was a one-day respite. Yes, they had to take the game at night seriously — but not the entire day.
“I’m a really a tough routine guy,” winning pitcher Jose Quintana said. “I always do the same thing before the game. But today was really special. I said hello to the kids. It was different.”
The Cubs need something different in their road life, as it’s been the grind of all grinds away from home, where Chicago improved to just 25-39 on the year. But on Sunday, there was no one reminding them of that record, only about what the game is all about.
Javier Baez talks about the joy he has playing baseball and how he wants kids to enjoy the game while they’re playing.
“It was really special,” Javy Baez said. “I came to the Little League World Series when I was young. We didn’t have this experience. We didn’t have major league players around. It was cool for them and for us too.
“It kind of brought us together. In the dugout, out of the dugout. Being around the kids, it was pretty cool.”
You could tell by the interactions that went on throughout the afternoon that this wasn’t going to be a night when the Cubs would play tight. They could have lost the game just the same, but perhaps it’s no coincidence they broke a 90-day road series drought on the same day they were sliding down a hill on cardboard boxes and letting Little Leaguers hold their bats while in the on-deck circle.
Team president Theo Epstein was asked what this day could mean for his team moving forward.
“It can’t hurt,” he said before the victory. “Everyone had fun today. The routine can get a little monotonous. Breaking it up and doing it in a way that makes everyone happy and reminds everyone how fortunate we are to still be playing this game, it’s pretty cool.”
Wouldn’t it be something if getting back to their 12-year-old selves was the key to unlocking what’s held the Cubs back, especially on the road? Even with the trip including back-to-back, heartbreaking ninth-inning blown leads, they return home on a high note. Not just from the series win, against the last-place Pirates, but because they had fun and won. Isn’t that what the Little League…