By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) — The Chicago Cubs players had been enjoying the recent winning streak and bonding as teammates at the same time.
“The guys are having the time of their lives after these home wins,” said pitcher Carlos Villanueva. “I can easily say that there is not a guy on this team that is not liked and respected. We lost together a lot and now we are learning to enjoy winning together.”
The Cubs had won five straight for the first time since 2013 and had not won six in row since 2011. A quiet confidence has come with the mini streak the team has put together.
“Hey we aren’t that far away from getting there,” Villanueva said.”When I was in Milwaukee, we brought up Fielder to go with Braun, that started a period of solid lineups that could not be pitched around. You see what Kris Bryant is doing in the minors. You put him in the middle of the order with Rizzo at some point, than see everyone get better and more confident around the whole club.”
Manager Rick Renteria can envision a group growing together and learning how to win as a unit.
“It is all about the big picture,” said Anthony Rizzo, author of two walk-off home runs during the winning streak. “The focus is on one game at a time and keep your head down, look up and hopefully we will be where we want to be.”
Rizzo himself has been the ring leader of the post-game celebration parties the team has had during this streak.
“Riz has brought in some cool stuff including a smoke machine,” said Villanueva. “He has taken on some leadership roles that a young star eventually needs to do.”
Renteria was brought in as manager to be a part of the player development plan for the organizations young group.
“This helps validate the things you are trying to do for the future,” said the Cubs manager. “Obviously you are looking for victories at the end of the day, but I think when you do that combined with them knowing how it got to that point it, is a really big deal.”
The Cubs had not swept a series of six games or more since 2008.
“We have had fun winning,” said one of the young, veterans James Russell. “People forget that baseball is a game. You have to play that way even though we are here to win. Whether it is a smoke machine or a beer shower, it is a little taste of doing something great and you have to embrace it.”
Despite losing the last game of the series on Sunday, the Cubs are 12-8 in their last twenty games.