After a historically feeble offensive season, the Cubs core cautiously believes it has turned the corner in time for the playoffs

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Do the last three games wipe the slate on a historically miserable season for a seasoned Chicago Cubs offense?

“You’ve seen this lineup struggle,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “But no other team wants to see this lineup get going and see us in the playoffs, I’ll tell you that.”

As a member of the 2016 Cleveland Indians, Kipnis saw the Cubs offense come through in the clutch during the World Series. But he also has had a front-row view of their franchise-worst .220 team average this year.

The offense has an opportunity to show its feeble performance during the 60-game season was an anomaly when the Cubs face the Miami Marlins in a best-of-three National League wild-card series starting Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

The most recent source of optimism occurred last weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field, where the Cubs hit nine home runs, drew 15 walks and scored 25 runs in winning two of three games against the playoff-bound White Sox.

Cubs President Theo Epstein was careful not to invest too heavily in small sample sizes, but he acknowledged that clinching a playoff berth for the fifth time in six seasons with four games left in the regular season enabled the batters to hit the reset button in preparation for the playoffs.

“We clearly have a group that’s talented and more than capable of having a productive offensive month in October,” Epstein said. “And I think we have a group with a real healthy mindset as we start this journey too.”

Kris Bryant invigorated the offense after missing three games because of injury by hitting two home runs and driving in six runs in the final two games, and he excited his legion of blogging zealots with a rare use of profanity toward critics who questioned his durability on social media.

But “it’s not just him,” Kipnis said. “You saw a bunch of guys we’ve needed to feel good about themselves going into the postseason.”

As far as the ugly numbers, such as Javier Baez’s 75 strikeouts, Kyle Schwarber’s .188 batting average and Bryant’s 11 RBIs in 34 games, “it’s over and done with,” Kipnis said.

During the Sox series, the Cubs displayed better plate discipline and capitalized on mistakes that they missed or fouled off in the past.

Their nine homers in the three games were only five fewer than they hit in the previous 24 games, and they distanced themselves from an 18-inning scoreless streak.

“This series was big because all of (the struggling hitters) had homers, good at-bats and adjustments were made,” Kipnis said. “There was a little less stress or weight on their shoulders.

“They were able to have a little more fun and breathe easier, and that’s what you want these guys feeling going into the postseason.”

Willson Contreras’ bat flip Friday symbolized the relief the entire team felt, and Javier Baez sneaked in an at-bat from the left side and doubled off Sox infielder Yolmer Sanchez in the ninth inning of Friday’s blowout win.

But Baez was all business Sunday, persuading manager David Ross to give him more at-bats as the designated hitter while many of his teammates rested.

The businesslike manner caught the attention of veteran speedster Billy Hamilton, who joined the Cubs on Sept. 8 after they claimed him off waivers from the New York Mets.

“Every single day, you see guys with low averages come in and say, ‘Let’s go, let’s do this. We’re great,’ “ Hamilton said. “It’s easy to be good when you’re hitting .300, but when you’re hitting in the .200s and .100s when you normally don’t hit like that, but have that confidence to keep going, that’s great. This team does it very well.”

That attitude has prevented the Cubs from falling into quicksand, according to Kipnis.

“The harder you try, you’re struggling and dig yourself deeper,” Kipnis said.

Bryant, Baez and Anthony Rizzo were part of a core group that overcame a 2-1 deficit in the 2016 NL Championship Series and a 3-1 deficit to overtake Kipnis and the Indians for the 2016 World Series title.

But the Cubs offense sputtered miserably in the second half of the 2018 season, capped by stranding 10 runners in a 2-1, 13-inning loss to the Colorado Rockies in the NL wild-card game.

“The past doesn’t matter in October,” Epstein said. “It’s just about coming together as a group as an offense again, scoring one more than the opponent. This is a group that has a track record of doing that, and other times we struggled in October, so we’re not relying on our past.

“We’re relying on our talent and how much these guys care about each other, how much they want to win. And Kris is one of those players entering October in a really good headspace, and I look forward to seeing what he’s able to do to help us win more games.”


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