The Chicago Cubs expect the final month of their overachieving season to be a grind.
Apparently ready for the challenge, the Cubs try to build on a impressive comeback victory Wednesday against the visiting Cincinnati Reds.
Following a 2-4 trip and Monday's 13-6 thrashing at the hands of the lowly Reds, Chicago (75-56) trailed three different times Tuesday before rookie Kyle Schwarber's two-run, go-ahead homer in the seventh led to a 5-4 victory. Owners of a 6 1/2-game lead over San Francisco for the NL's final wild-card spot, the Cubs don't expect to have an easy time down the stretch but also believe their relatively young roster has the proper attitude to reach the postseason.
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"It's like a playoff game every time," said Schwarber, who had two hits after going 1 for 14 with six strikeouts in his previous four games. "Whether we win or lose we need to have that same demeanor all the time."
Schwarber, who grew up rooting for Cincinnati (54-77) in nearby Middletown, Ohio, is batting .435 with three home runs and eight RBIs in six games against the Reds.
"It's a pretty big one for me since I've been struggling lately," he said. "I'm just trying to get back on the right track and help this team. Just try to go up there and put together a quality at-bat."
Schwarber went 2 for 3 with a double off Raisel Iglesias (3-6, 3.92 ERA) when the right-hander allowed two runs, six hits, walked four but struck out eight in 5 2-3 innings of Chicago's 5-4, 13-inning road victory July 21.
Iglesias, however, posted a 2.27 ERA despite going 2-3 and receiving nine runs of support in six August starts. His teammates have scored one run overall while he's completed seven innings in each of his last three and struck out 23 in the last two.
''He's a stud,'' manager Bryan Price said. ''He's learning, he's growing up. That part has been great to watch."
The Cubs counter with Jason Hammel (7-6, 3.42), who has completed at least six innings once in his last nine starts and is 1-1 with a 6.28 ERA in the last three. He gave up three runs, four hits and walked three in five-plus innings of a 4-1 loss opposite Clayton Kershaw on Friday at Dodger Stadium.
Though the numbers suggest otherwise, Chicago catcher Miguel Montero felt that effort was a step in the right direction for Hammel.
''That was the best I've seen him in at least a month,'' Montero said.
The right-hander has a 2.70 ERA while not factoring in the decision of his two starts against the Reds this season.
Joey Votto is 3 for 17 against Hammel, but with a homer and two RBIs on Tuesday is batting .526 with four home runs and 12 RBIs during an 11-game road hitting streak. He's hit .382 in his last 10 games at Wrigley Field.
Votto's first base counterpart, Anthony Rizzo, is 0 for 6 in the series and batting .164 with 20 strikeouts in the last 16 games.
Kris Bryant, meanwhile, is batting .386 with 17 RBIs in the last 16 at home.