Fowler setting second-half pace for Cubs

Maddon credits leadoff hitter for club's potent offense

Fowler setting second-half pace for Cubs

ST. LOUIS -- It used to be that Dexter Fowler and Cubs manager Joe Maddon would exchange a playful message before each game. Now, the two do so before each one of the center fielder's at-bats.

"'You go, we go,'" Maddon said of his message to Fowler. "Prior to the game, that's our greeting, and before every at-bat, 'You go, we go.' He smiles and he goes up there and makes us go."

Fowler did so Monday, hitting his fifth leadoff home run of the season and the 14th of his career, and then adding a two-run double in the second to spark the Cubs to a 9-0 victory over the Cardinals and only their second win in eight games at Busch Stadium this year.

Russell's three-run homer

"'You go, we go' -- he always says that," Fowler said. "He mixes it up, depending on how I'm doing that day."

It doesn't get old, either.

"It keeps you going," Fowler said. "We're a little superstitious about that."

It's worked in the second half. After hitting .232 with eight home runs in 85 games prior to the All-Star break, Fowler is hitting .297 with nine homers, 13 doubles and 16 RBIs since. His homer Monday was his 17th, a career high, and he's also set a new mark in runs scored (90).

"Everybody is talking about everybody else, but post All-Star break, [Fowler] may be the biggest reason our offense is good," Maddon said.

Fowler does lead the Cubs in batting average since the break. What's the difference?

"I don't know -- I'm still trying to see pitches," Fowler said. "I guess some luck has changed."

Maddon admitted he didn't anticipate 30 homers combined from his Nos. 1 and 9 hitters at the start of the season. Rookie Addison Russell, who bats ninth, launched his 13th in the third, a three-run shot. Russell didn't expect this many homers either.

"I know I set my standards pretty high, but I didn't think I'd be here at this point right now," Russell said.

Russell's three-run homer

The Cubs believe in themselves. With their win over the Cardinals and the Pirates' loss to the Reds, Chicago is two games behind Pittsburgh in the Wild Card standings. It's a different feeling than late June when the Cardinals swept a three-game series against the Cubs.

"We're totally different," Fowler said. "Guys have matured. The young guys coming up know they're supposed to be here, and they're playing the part."

Does he think they can catch the Cardinals?

"We take it game by game, and just go out and try to win every game and let the rest take care of itself," Fowler said.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.