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Cubs 5, Padres 3: Pitching, Defense And Home Runs

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The Cubs won their series over the Padres with solid pitching, excellent work in the field and power hitting. Good times.

Denis Poroy/Getty Images

During the top of the ninth inning of the Cubs' 5-3 win over the Padres Tuesday evening, TV cameras caught Joe Maddon and Jake Arrieta in discussion in the Cubs dugout. Len & JD speculated that Jake was lobbying to stay in the game. When Joe shook Jake's hand, though, you knew that decision had already been made, despite Jake's complete dominance of the ballgame and the fact that he had thrown just 99 pitches.

Perhaps Joe should have let Jake continue. Felix Pena entered the game and gave up two hits and a walk, scoring a run and bringing Aroldis Chapman in to finish things up. Chapman was uncharacteristically wild, throwing only nine strikes in 19 pitches and wild-pitching a run in, making the game uncomfortably close. But he struck out Christian Bethancourt on a 101 mile per hour fastball to end it and post his 28th save (eighth as a Cub).

Jake, though... for much of this game he looked like the Jake of the second half of 2015, despite issuing three walks. The walks barely mattered, because the Cubs defense behind him was absolutely spectacular, particularly the play of Javier Baez. Baez was part of three double plays:

  • This barehanded grab and relay on a throw from Addison Russell to complete an inning-ending double play in the second, a grab and throw that Baez made look like he does these sorts of things every day.
  • This third-inning play on a bunt by pitcher Christian Friedrich that Javy helped turn into an inning-ending double play (with an excellent relay by Russell).
  • This relay throw in the fifth inning after Kris Bryant started another twin killing to end the inning.

And then there was this spinning throw [VIDEO] by Javy in the eighth inning to rob Ryan Schimpf of a hit. The thing about Baez' defense is that he's this good playing multiple positions. Tuesday night he was at second base, but we've seen him make these sorts of plays at shortstop and third base too, a real credit to how hard he works on his craft. Too bad there's not a Gold Glove award for "multiple positions," because Javy would certainly have earned that this year.

So Jake went through seven innings facing the minimum 21 hitters, despite three walks and a hit issued during that time, because of the double plays and this slick pickoff [VIDEO] of Travis Jankowski at third base by Willson Contreras. That one happened in the first inning while the game was still scoreless. Here's how good that throw was:

Meanwhile, the Cubs were piling up runs via the longball -- this in a ballpark not conducive to home runs. Kris Bryant started the home run fun with his 33rd (which again tied him with Nolan Arenado for the National League lead):

That father and son sure seemed to enjoy the kid's catch of that homer! Fun facts about Bryant's blast:

Bryant walked in the fifth and was doubled in by Ben Zobrist, and that brought Russell to the plate. Russell's two-run shot [VIDEO] made the score 4-0, and Addy is ridiculously hot right now:

The Cubs' final run scored in the sixth after Jake hit a triple [VIDEO] into the right-field corner that was misjudged by right fielder Patrick Kivlehan. Jake scored on a sac fly by Bryant, who's now at 86 RBI, just one fewer than Anthony Rizzo. Fun fact on Jake's triple:

Turned out the Cubs needed almost all of those runs after the Padres' somewhat-scary ninth. Pena, of course, is simply a placeholder in the bullpen until Hector Rondon returns from the disabled list. It would have been nice for Jake to finish, but I understand Joe's thought of getting him out of the game and saving some of Jake's energy for the postseason.

California ballparks seem to bring out the best in Jake:

Joe probably won't do this, but he could skip Mike Montgomery's turn in the rotation, currently scheduled for Friday, and throw Jason Hammel, Jon Lester and Jake in the Dodgers series, all on normal rest, given Thursday's off day. Then Montgomery could go at Wrigley Monday or Tuesday against the Pirates, still giving everyone an extra day's rest. Just a thought.

Jake is still walking a few too many hitters -- he's now at a career-high 62 for the season -- but overall Tuesday night he looked a lot like the Jake of old. The Cubs will need him to keep this up through the rest of the season and the postseason, so here's hoping this game was a sign of things to come.

Weird play of the evening: this hard-hit ball up the middle by Contreras in the second inning that would have likely been a single if it hadn't hit umpire Joe West's foot. The carom gave Willson a double:

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Cubs walk watch: Haven't updated you on this in a while. Four walks in Tuesday's game bring the season total to 510, or 4.08 per game. That's a pace for 661 walks, which would still be enough to break the team record (650, set in 1975). The Cubs need 58 more walks in the 37 remaining games to top the 2015 team's total of 567.

The win, coupled with the Cardinals' loss to the Mets Tuesday night (yes, you can root for the Mets for the next two days, too!) increased the Cubs' lead in the N.L. Central to 13½ games and reduced the division-clinching magic number to 25. (That's also the magic number to clinch a playoff spot, since the Cardinals are currently in the second wild-card spot.) And they have, at last, after a couple of tries, reached 35 games over .500, which equals the highest-water mark any Cubs team has had since 1945. The 2008 Cubs peaked at 35 games over, last reached on September 24, 2008 at 96-61.

The last time any Cubs team was more than 35 games over .500 was the last day of the 1945 season, a year they finished 42 games over at 98-56.

Onward and upward toward that goal, and hopefully the World Series. They'll try to sweep this series against the Padres Wednesday afternoon -- don't forget, day game today -- with Kyle Hendricks facing Paul Clemens. Game time is 2:40 p.m. CT. The game preview will post at 12:30 p.m. CT.