There really appears to be absolutely nothing Javier Baez can’t do on a baseball field.
I had given up this game as lost, and if you stayed up late Friday, you probably had, too.
And then Anthony Rizzo smacked a double to the opposite field [VIDEO] with two out and two strikes and Jason Heyward on first base in the ninth to tie the game.
And then El Mago did his magic act. With one out in the 10th, Javy hit a slow dribbler down the third-base line. Kris Bryant had hit a similar ball just moments before, and former Cubs farmhand Christian Villanueva had made a nice play to retire KB. But Javy’s ball hugged the line and hit third base, so he was safe.
Baez shook his leg around as if he’d tweaked something running that ball out. On the broadcast, Len Kasper suggested maybe Javy was deking the Padres into thinking he was hurt. Maybe so — on the very next pitch, Baez took off for second base. And then... [VIDEO]
Javy was safe at second, the throw got away into center field, and when Padres center fielder Manuel Margot kicked it around, Baez scored. He’d hesitated just a bit between second and third, then turned on the jets.
Brandon Morrow finished up for his 21st save and the Cubs had an improbable 5-4 win over the Padres, instead of a tough loss, an inspiring win, a great way to start this series.
Now let’s unpack the rest of this game.
The Padres scored in the first inning, and Tyler Chatwood issued a walk that wound up loading the bases. That walk helped the Padres score that run, as their run eventually scored on a fielder’s choice.
The Cubs got that run, plus one, back in the top of the second, but not before Baez had what appeared to be a home run called a double. You make the call [VIDEO].
Now, to me it looked like the arc of the ball would have taken it over the yellow line even if that fan hadn’t touched it. The original call was “no fan interference,” but that was overturned, so Javy wound up on second. One out later, and after a pair of walks loaded the bases, Ian Happ came to the plate and singled in two runs [VIDEO] for a 2-1 Cubs lead.
That lead didn’t last long. After Chatwood got out of a leadoff walk with a double play in the bottom of the second, Clayton Richard singled. Now, Richard is a pretty good hitter for a pitcher, as we learned when he was a Cub, but really, you’ve got to keep the opposing pitcher off the bases. Travis Jankowski followed with a home run to give San Diego a 3-2 lead.
There it stayed until the fifth, helped in part by some slick defense by the Cubs: Rizzo with this nice diving stop [VIDEO] to end the fourth inning.
The Cubs then tied the game in the fifth on this two-out double [VIDEO] by Bryant that scored Albert Almora Jr., who had advanced to second on a throwing error.
The bullpens took over. Steve Cishek threw a scoreless sixth with a pair of strikeouts, and Justin Wilson allowed a hit and struck out one before he was replaced by Carl Edwards Jr., who completed the seventh and threw into the eighth as well, but that’s where things started to go bad. CJ’s outing was going along all right until this:
Margot double snaps Carl Edwards Jr. streak of 7 consecutive strikeouts (dating back to Tuesday)#Cubs— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 14, 2018
So that wasn’t good, and it was followed by Austin Hedges dumping a little looper into right field, driving in the lead run. Brian Duensing, just off the disabled list, managed to record a strikeout to end the eighth with no further damage.
That led to the ninth-inning rally. With two out, pinch-hitter Victor Caratini was hit by a pitch. Heyward ran for him and scored the tying run on Rizzo’s double — which was a terrific piece of hitting, as he often does, he choked up on the bat and almost golfed a low and outside pitch to the opposite field for the game-tying double. For some reason, Rizzo seems to love hitting in the leadoff spot, going 3-for-5 in this game, a single and two doubles. And so:
Even though CJ allowed the tying run, Cubs relievers did an excellent job overall. They threw five innings and struck out 12. That included Pedro Strop striking out the side (on just 13 pitches) in the ninth inning after Rizzo had driven in the tying run.
The win was great, but I’m going to open the complaint department door... just a little... regarding Chatwood. This start (three walks, three runs in five innings) wasn’t really any better than any of the rest of his outings and management is going to have to try to figure out what to do with him after the All-Star break. And the 31 pitches thrown by Edwards likely makes him unavailable for Saturday’s game.
Further, the Cubs have to be mighty tired after playing three extra-inning games out of the four so far on this trip, and there have been quite a number of extra-inning affairs overall this year:
12 extra-inning games for the #Cubs before the All-Star Break this season. 10 on the road.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 14, 2018
The Cubs are 6-6 in those 12 games. Also, six of the Cubs’ last seven games have been decided by one run. They’re 3-3 in those six contests. They’re 7-3 so far in July, and all 10 of those games have been decided by two runs or fewer. The last Cubs game decided by more than two runs was the 14-9 win over the Twins June 30.
The win, coupled with the Brewers’ loss to the Pirates, puts the Cubs in a virtual tie for first place in the N.L. Central, ahead by three percentage points. And for the Cubs, it was their third win so far this year when they trailed entering the ninth inning. (Yes, that’s a lot. Even many good teams do this only two or three times in an entire season.)
The Cubs and Padres will meet again Saturday evening for the second game of this set, as the Cubs go for the series win, at 9:10 p.m. CT. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Luis Perdomo will go for the Padres. TV coverage Saturday is via ABC7 Chicago.