Just when you think Javier Baez has done everything possible on a baseball field, he dares to do something new.
Javy and Willson Contreras had singled to lead off the seventh inning of a scoreless game, and Willson’s single advanced Javy to third.
Javy took his usual big lead, but Mets starter Steven Matz was paying much more attention to Contreras at first base. We’ve talked about this before: One of the reasons Javy can pull off the things he does is that he never hesitates. Once he gets something in his head, it’s full speed ahead.
And really, it wasn’t even close. Baez has baseball instincts that are off the charts. If he’s not elected to the All-Star team, Dave Roberts ought to choose him anyway, just to provide some entertainment. People would definitely tune in to watch Javy play.
On that play, Contreras advanced to second, so it was officially a double steal. One out later, Kyle Schwarber singled, putting Contreras at third, where he scored on a sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist, another heads-up play where the ball barely got past the infield. Great read by Willson.
And Zobrist was supposed to have the day off. Zobrist was pressed into action when Addison Russell left the game in the sixth inning. Here’s why that happened:
#Cubs Russell says he sprained finger on bad swing on 2nd at-bat. Should only miss couple days— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) June 3, 2018
That makes Monday’s off day fortuitous; maybe Russell misses Tuesday’s game, but that’s it.
Anyway, the Cubs had a 2-0 lead and that score held up for the 2-0 win over the Mets, sweeping the series, as I noted in the game preview, the first time the Cubs had swept the Mets in a four-game set in New York since 1991 (there was a four-game sweep at Wrigley in 2015).
Jon Lester was outstanding yet again. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, when Kevin Plawecki singled with two out. Lester got into a bit of trouble in that frame, as the bases were loaded on that hit, a hit batsman and a walk, but Lester got Adrian Gonzalez to ground out to end the inning.
The only other inning where Lester really had any issues was the first, where he walked the first two batters he faced, but recovered by striking out the side. He wound up with seven strong innings, allowing only two singles, three walks and the hit batter, with seven strikeouts. That lowered his season ERA to 2.44; he’s having an excellent year, reminiscent of his 2016 season. Fun fact:
Most starts of 5+ innings & 1 or fewer runs allowed (2016-present)— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) June 3, 2018
36 Jon Lester
32 Justin Verlander
31 Max Scherzer
29 Jacob deGrom
The bullpen again did a fine job. Randy Rosario issued a leadoff walk in the eighth, but got the next two hitters, and then Steve Cishek was summoned to face Plawecki and struck him out. Brian Duensing allowed a leadoff hit in the ninth, but got A-Gon to hit into a double play and then Luis Guillorme hit a little popup to Javy, who had moved to short when Russell left the game. That was Duensing’s first save as a Cub, in fact, just his third career save and first since 2015, when he was with the Twins.
The Cubs pitching staff gave the Mets just six runs in the four games, which cover 41 innings due to Saturday’s extra-inning affair. That’s just outstanding.
The Cubs did a curious little defensive dance with Javy and Tommy La Stella. TLS started at second in this one and Javy at third, but the two swapped positions several times depending on the handedness of the hitter, Joe Maddon wanting the better defender (Javy) on that side. That led to this odd-looking boxscore:
The win, the Cubs’ fourth straight, gave them a 6-1 road trip and overall they’ve now won seven of their last eight, and have reached another high-water mark for 2018 at 10 games over .500. And we all owe a big “Thank you!” to the White Sox, who defeated the Brewers Sunday afternoon and took two of three in their series against Milwaukee, and no, you did not predict that would happen before Friday. That’s just the second series the Sox have won at home this year (they took three of four from the Rangers a couple of weeks ago).
So the Cubs now trail the Brewers by two games, and are even in the loss column, and a week from Monday the Cubs begin a three-game series at Miller Park. Should be interesting.
There’s other business to take care of first, as the Cubs have a well-earned off day Monday and will begin a three-game set against the Phillies at Wrigley Tuesday evening. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Zach Eflin will go for the Phillies Tuesday. Jake Arrieta started for the Phillies Sunday in San Francisco, so he won’t go in this series, but he’ll certainly receive a warm welcome back, and I’d bet the Cubs will play a tribute video before Tuesday’s game. TV for Tuesday is on WGN.