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Cubs 5, Mets 1: Turning points

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This game turned on two key innings.

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Two innings went by in the Cubs’ eventual 5-1 win over the Mets without much of anything happening.

Then in the bottom of the third, the Mets loaded the bases on a walk, double and another walk, and you could be forgiven if you thought Jose Quintana had been taking lessons in walking hitters from Tyler Chatwood.

Quintana did what he needed to right then, with just one out in the inning. He struck out Jose Bautista and got Michael Conforto to ground out to end the inning, and that seemed to energize him. Including those two hitters, Q retired the last 11 Mets batters he faced in one of his strongest outings of the season.

Two innings after Q worked himself out of his own jam, Kyle Schwarber led off with a walk, but stayed on first base as Ian Happ struck out and Q failed to bunt him along.

(Note: This is yet another call from me for the DH. Love Q’s pitching, but as a hitter, he is now 2-for-68 with 41 strikeouts, and this year: 0-for-19 with 10 K’s. That’s... bad.)

Anyway, Ben Zobrist followed Quintana and quickly gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead [VIDEO].

The Cubs made it 3-0 in the sixth. Javier Baez doubled with two out and was singled in by Schwarber. In the seventh, Albert Almora Jr. walked and Ben Zobrist doubled, putting runners on second and third with nobody out. Inexplicably, the Mets played the infield back, conceding a run if the next hitter grounded out. Normally, teams don’t do that trailing just 3-0 in the late innings, but the Mets did, and Jason Heyward grounded to second, with Almora scoring.

Let me pause again here to give kudos to Jason Heyward. He batted second in the order for the first time since July 3, 2016, and went 2-for-5 with that RBI groundout. That makes him 8-for-13 (.615) over his last three games with no strikeouts. He’s now hitting .266/.338/.384 for the season with 22 RBI, and .455/.500/.591 (10-for-22) over his last 10 games, with just one strikeout in that 10-game span. He’ll be just fine.

Steve Cishek threw a scoreless seventh, and then Tommy La Stella batted for him in the eighth and singled. That’s significant even though TLS was eventually stranded. That was Tommy’s 11th pinch hit of the year, which leads the major leagues. That’s 11 pinch hits in one game less than a third of this season. The Cubs franchise record for pinch hits in a season is 20, set by Thad Bosley in 1985, tied by Dave Clark in 1997. That one could be broken by the All-Star break, the way La Stella is going, and he has a shot at the major-league record, 28, set by John Vander Wal in 1995. As a PH, La Stella is hitting .423/.545/500 (11-for-26) with two doubles, five walks and seven RBI. He’s just been outstanding off the bench.

Brian Duensing recorded the first two outs of the eighth before Brandon Nimmo homered off him, ruining the Cubs’ chances at a shutout. Pedro Strop threw one pitch to end the eighth on a popup.

And then Javier Baez did something in the ninth that he hadn’t done in more than seven weeks and 180 plate appearances — he walked. Unintentionally. The Cubs had already scored their fifth run of the night in the inning, but the walk by Javy is notable:

That April 11 walk was intentional. Javy’s last unintentional walk was April 7. Fun facts:

One more fun fact from me: Gerson Bautista, the pitcher who walked Javy, became the first non-Brewers hurler to issue an unintentional walk to Baez this season. The other two Baez unintentional free passes were given by Zach Davies and Jacob Barnes of Milwaukee in a series at Miller Park in early April.

Overall, the Cubs walked five times Thursday night, bringing their season total to 211 in 53 games. That’s 3.98 walks per game, a pace for 645 for the season, which would be third-best in franchise history.

The bottom of the ninth in this game didn’t quite go according to plan. Strop remained in the game, Joe Maddon trying to rest his bullpen in a non-save situation. Pedro recorded another out on one pitch, a sharp line drive to Kris Bryant. But then he issued a walk, and after retiring Devin Mesoraco for the second out, he walked Jay Bruce.

Well, now it’s a save situation with the tying run on deck, so in came Brandon Morrow.

When Morrow enters games in situations like this he seems to take that almost as a personal affront: “How dare this team attempt to get back in this game!” He threw just two pitches to end it, ball one followed by a ground ball to short for a force play to end it, and just that quickly he had earned his 13th save.

The win gave the Cubs a winning month of May, just barely, at 14-13, a good result considering they began the month with a five-game losing streak. They’re now on a little bit of a run, having won five of their last seven, and remain in second place in the N.L. Central. With this win they picked up half a game on the idle Brewers and now trail by four games.

Road uniform update:

Road gray: 11-2
Blue alt: 3-10

Please wear the road grays for the rest of this trip. At least.

Friday, the Cubs go for two in a row over the Mets. Tyler Chatwood starts for the Cubs and Zack Wheeler for the Mets. Game time is 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage Friday is via NBC Sports Chicago Plus.