Joe Maddon was happy to pardon Dexter Fowler's interruption Sunday morning.
"I just wanted to say hello," Fowler said as he peeked his head through the doorway in the middle of Maddon's pregame meeting with the media.
Maddon offered his leadoff hitter a seat, but Fowler sped away toward the Cubs' new clubhouse after a wave goodbye.
Maddon sure is glad the 30-year-old center fielder didn't wave goodbye for good in the offseason, when it looked like a lock that Fowler would be an Oriole. Multiple reports said Fowler had agreed to a three-year, $33 million deal with the Orioles.
Instead, Fowler signed a one-year, $13 million contract to return to the Cubs, with a mutual option for next season.
So far he's earning his paycheck. He has reached base in 44.9 percent of his plate appearances and entered Monday with a league-high 14 doubles and team-best .331 batting average. He also has three home runs, 19 RBIs and 27 runs scored.
"Everybody comes in expecting to win, and that's what we're trying to do," he said earlier this season. "If you lose a game and you know you played hard and made mistakes, you make up for it."
Road, sweet road: The Cubs have found the cure for homesickness — victory. The National League Central leaders have a baseball-best 14 road wins against just three losses.
They will play their next nine games away from Wrigley Field and its well-known winds, beginning Tuesday with a three-game series up Interstate 94 in Milwaukee.
"The wind's not going to be blowing in," Maddon said. "That will be the biggest difference. We all love playing here, but it's nice to get away for a little bit."
What the Hector? Jung Ho Kang's home run against Hector Rondon in the ninth inning Sunday proved to be the game-winner and was the first homer Rondon had allowed in 191/3 innings over 21 appearances dating to last season.
His walk of Gregory Polanco was the first he had allowed this season in 131/3 innings. Rondon has allowed six hits and two runs and struck out 22 in 2016.
"He's just been more assertive," Maddon said. "He's more of a pitcher when it comes to closing games as opposed to being this primal, one-pitch kind of a guy."
He said it: "We're well ahead of where we wanted to be, but we'll take it. It's a long ride. There's a lot of games to go." — pitcher Jason Hammel on the Cubs' start.
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