See, Javy? We knew you could do it!
After 54 major-league at-bats, including his first one Sunday, Javier Baez drew a walk, his first in the big leagues. No, the ball has not been sent to the Hall of Fame. The best news about this base on balls is that after two groundouts advanced Baez to second base, a single by Luis Valbuena scored him.
That lead held until the eighth inning, when a single by Ruben Tejada, a passed ball and a Curtis Granderson single off Pedro Strop tied the game.
Fortunately, Starlin Castro came to the rescue with his 13th homer of the season, one short of his career high, and Hector Rondon (17th save) finished up uneventfully and the Cubs completed a satisfying 2-1 win over the Mets.
Before Castro's homer, Baez went one better on his first free pass in the top of the eighth inning off Mets reliever Carlos Torres. He checked his swing on a 3-2 pitch that was ruled not a swing by plate umpire Will Little. The pitch was out of the strike zone, thus called ball four. Two walks in one game! Let's hope Baez does this again. He'll need to show opposing pitchers that he's willing to do this in order to get better pitches to hit.
The other story of this game was Jake Arrieta, who again showed the form that had him dominating teams in June and early July. Arrieta threw seven shutout innings, allowing two singles and a walk and striking out nine. Arrieta's curveball was outstanding all afternoon, freezing hitters on both sides of the plate. It's possible that Arrieta might get shut down late in the season, but for now, he still looks strong; this outing was almost effortless and he probably could have gone another inning. I usually am in favor of starting pitchers who look as dominant as this being allowed to go longer; in this case, if it saves Arrieta for starts later in the year and allows him to finish strong, it was a good idea to pull him after seven.
Matt Szczur made his major-league debut as a pinch-runner in the seventh, for Ryan Sweeney, who had singled. Szczur became the seventh Cub to make his major-league debut this year and I hope he'll get opportunities to start over the next few weeks. While he might never become a star, or even a regular starter, he's got skills that could make him a useful fourth or fifth outfielder going forward. He remained in the game in right field and hopefully will be in the starting lineup soon.
Apart from the run, the Cubs couldn't do much with Rafael Montero, who was considered one of the top Mets pitching prospects earlier this year and whom the Cubs scouted as a possible trade acquisition as far back as spring training. The Cubs had just four singles off Montero, but fortunately, got the game-winning homer from Castro.
This win continued the Cubs' odd pattern of winning games televised on CSN Chicago, while losing the WGN-TV games. I realize it's strictly coincidence; the players certainly don't care, nor probably even know, what channel the game is on. But, through Sunday's game, the Cubs are 31-28 on CSN, 21-34 on WGN (and 1-8 on other channels). Weird.
This quirky little four-game road trip will have its ending begin before your lunch hour likely even starts at work Monday -- an 11:10 a.m. CT start, with Kyle Hendricks facing Bartolo Colon. Colon has the best walk rate for any National League pitcher, 1.2 per nine innings, so it'll be a challenge for Javy to do it again.