LONDON — A familiar song rumbled through the speakers at London’s stadium as a stream of fireworks sailed skyward and exploded above the top ring of the venue. Cubs fans were a long flight away from the Friendly Confines, but they came together in a celebratory rendition of “Go Cubs, Go.”
“It sounded good,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “It was beautiful and loud.”
The Cardinals may have technically been the home team in this latest London Series opener, but the Cubs and their fans called the home of West Ham home for a 9-1 loss to their rivals. . All the travel, jet lag and pomp and circumstance surrounding the event did nothing to deter the momentum the North Siders have built in recent weeks.
Locals and travelers came for a show, and the Cubs did not disappoint.
“It was something I’ll never forget – really special,” Steele said. “It felt like everyone was on the mound there with me. Really exciting — lots of energy.
After the win, Ross repeated his standard response focusing on the pitch, the set and the play in front of his club, rather than zooming out. That said, there’s no denying the significance of the Cubs’ climb back to break-even, and now Chicago (37-38) is one game behind that shoulder-relaxing number.
The Cubs were 10 games under .500 on June 8, following a sweep at the hands of the Angels. Chicago has since had series wins over the Giants, Pirates and Orioles. That includes a pair of three-game sweeps against Pittsburgh, knocking them out of first place in the National League Central. The Cubs are three behind the division-leading Reds.
Heading into the London Series, this final victory in Pittsburgh before embarking on the flight across the pond was very well received.
“I was definitely more anxious for Wednesday’s game than most,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “I was like, ‘All right, let’s win, do a sweep, let’s get on the plane and enjoy it.’ And there’s no doubt, I think the way we played and won 10 out of 12 (going to London), it’s certainly nice to approach this with a few days off.
“It relaxes the atmosphere a bit. And, look, you hope the program won’t take us out of that race. I think we played well. »
The potential distractions piled up, but the Cubs maintained their focus.
Christopher Morel joined some social media influencers for pre-game videos on Wednesday, then celebrated his 24th birthday with three hits. Happ chatted with two Formula 1 drivers during Friday practice, then put the Cubs in pole position with a first shot in the second inning against Adam Wainwright.
The team had a private reception at Westminster Abbey on Thursday evening. Happ and Morel took a double-decker bus tour of the city. The players went sightseeing – many also have family on the rare trip. The crowds and media inquiries felt like a post-season atmosphere.
The Cubs then took a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning, and Dansby Swanson applied the punctuation with a two-run homer in the ninth.
“It’s part of coming here and doing this,” said Happ, who again homered in third. “You still have to play baseball. You still have to go out and do your job. And I think it was a complete game. Steeley did a great job. The defense behind him was really good. And then the bats, the bats were on today.
Steele said he followed a normal routine on Saturday afternoon, trying to keep things as close to his usual starting day as possible. When the southpaw took to the hill in front of an announced crowd of 54,662, including celebrities like Bill Murray and Nick Offerman, the feeling was different.
“Once I was definitely there,” Steele said, “I felt the energy in the stadium. If anything, it just locked me in a bit more.
That energy lasted throughout the final pitch, culminating in that familiar post-victory chant.
“Hopefully we hear it again tomorrow,” Ross said.