Kris Bryant hit the disabled list for the first time in his career, and so Javier Baez took KB’s place at third base, and also in the third spot in the lineup.
Both of those seemed to agree with him Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. Javy showed off some of his typical Javy defense and also went 4-for-5 with two home runs, including a grand slam, and the Cubs broke their five-game losing streak in style with a 9-4 win over the Dodgers.
This game didn’t start off that way. Instead, the first four innings looked a lot like Monday’s game, with the Dodgers taking a 1-0 lead in the second and both starting pitchers, Jon Lester and Ross Stripling. keeping the score down.
Part of that was thanks to Javy. After the Dodgers had scored that second-inning run, an error by Ian Happ advanced Cody Bellinger to third. This would turn out to be important, as Yasiel Puig, the next hitter, bounced a ball to Javy. Here, watch what happened [VIDEO].
Puig hit a 3-0 pitch right to Javy, who managed to catch Bellinger in a rundown. Frankly, the Cubs have had some rundowns this year that were not handled well. This one was, and after Bellinger was tagged out, Baez made a snap throw over to first base, where Puig had strayed too far off the base and was tagged out by Anthony Rizzo.
It’s likely that no other Cubs infielder would have seen Puig do that, or be able to throw so quickly and accurately to get that out, and maybe no other infielder, period, makes that play.
That kept the score 1-0 through the top of the fifth. With two out, Javy! [VIDEO]
Baez’s 15th homer of the year not only tied the game, it produced this fun fact:
Javier Báez has now homered from all 9 spots in the order as a starter in his MLB career. #Cubs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 27, 2018
I haven’t seen any research on this, but I can’t imagine too many other players have done that — maybe no other players.
The Dodgers, though, took the lead in the bottom of the inning. Bellinger singled again, and with two out Lester wild-pitched him to second. (Really, Willson Contreras should have blocked that ball better.) Austin Barnes blooped a ball just out of reach of Ben Zobrist at second base, and Bellinger scored to make it 2-1 Dodgers.
That just made Javy mad. But before Javy came to the plate, the Cubs had tied the game thanks in part to a Dodgers error. Contreras had singled, and one out later Ian Happ reached on that error. Addison Russell singled in Contreras to tie the game. Tommy La Stella batted for Lester, and at the time I thought that might be a mistake. Lester had thrown only 82 pitches, and with the bullpen so beat up recently, I thought it might have been a good idea to leave Lester in the game, perhaps to bunt, something he’s good at. TLS struck out, but then the offense got going.
Zobrist singled, scoring Happ to give the Cubs the lead, and Jason Heyward walked to load the bases. And then, Javy. [VIDEO]
Baez’s slam gave the Cubs a 7-2 lead, and:
Javier Báez: 4th career grand slam.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 27, 2018
He has more than Bryant (3) & Rizzo (3) #Cubs
The Cubs now led 7-2, and if you were a bit worried because of the blown five-run lead Sunday, you had cause to be. The lead was extended to 8-2 in the eighth on an RBI single by Contreras, but the Dodgers put two runs across in the bottom of that inning. The runs were charged to Brian Duensing, but some bad pitching by Anthony Bass, including a wild pitch and two stolen bases when the Cubs left third base uncovered in a shift, allowed the runs to score.
Fortunately, that was it; Justin Wilson finished up uneventfully in the ninth inning after the Cubs had scored one final run on an RBI single by Albert Almora Jr., and the five-game losing streak was history.
For Baez, it was his second four-hit game this season and the third five-RBI game of his career. Baez now ranks tied for sixth in the N.L. with 16 home runs, and second in the league with 56 RBI, for whatever that flawed number is worth. His .555 SLG ranks fourth in the N.L. and his .870 OPS now leads all Cubs hitters. Javy might not be elected to the All-Star team, but he certainly deserves to be there. More Javy:
#Cubs with 15 doubles, 5 triples & 15 home runs before the All-Star Break— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 27, 2018
(since All-Star Game began in 1933)
1958 Ernie Banks
1962 Billy Williams
2018 Javier Báez
Other Cubs having good offensive nights: Zobrist and Russell both had three hits to help pace the 15-hit attack. And after a few games without much plate discipline, the Cubs also drew five walks in this game. The Cubs have now drawn 298 walks in 77 games, an average of 3.87 per game, and a pace for 627, which would still be good for third-best in franchise history.
And so, despite the losing streak, the Cubs trail the Brewers by just 2½ games, and they’re down only two in the loss column. If you’ve been on the ledge, you can climb off now. Brandon Morrow is expected to be activated from the disabled list for Wednesday’s game, which will take a lot of pressure off the bullpen. Kyle Hendricks will start Wednesday night for the Cubs against Dodgers lefthander Alex Wood. Game time again is 9:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage Wednesday will be on NBC Sports Chicago Plus.