All of us know how good a baseball player Javier Baez is, and the greater baseball world is about to find out, with Javy’s upcoming start in the All-Star Game and participation in the Home Run Derby.
Javy was a one-man wrecking crew Saturday night in San DIego, going 2-for-5 with his 19th home run and five RBI as the Cubs finally had a laugher in July after 10 close games this month, an 11-6 win over the Padres.
Oh, and he did all of that while not at 100 percent:
Javy said he wasn't feeling well. Didn't want to sit out because #Cubs were short-handed. Almora was gone because of family matter— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 15, 2018
Kyle Hendricks, though, had yet another rough first inning. A single and a two-out homer by Eric Hosmer gave the Padres a 2-0 lead. The struggles Kyle has had in the first inning this year are inexplicable. He now has an 8.53 ERA in the first inning this year (19 total innings) and a 2.96 ERA in all other innings (91⅓ innings). Of the 17 homers he’s allowed, eight have come in the first inning.
I can’t figure that out. Obviously Kyle and the coaching staff can’t, either, or they’d fix it.
Hendricks did settle down and allowed just three other hits through four more innings, departing for a pinch-hitter in the sixth after throwing 102 pitches (24 of those thrown in the first).
And the Cubs set about the business of coming back from that 2-0 deficit.
Ian Happ was first [VIDEO].
Happ’s 11th of the year made it 2-1, and then he walked leading off the fourth. Kyle Schwarber was the next hitter [VIDEO].
Schwarber’s 18th of the season gave the Cubs a lead they would not relinquish, and (for the moment, anyway) tied him with Baez for the team lead.
The Cubs extended the lead in the fifth. After Anthony Rizzo singled and was forced at second by Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward doubled... or did he? [VIDEO]
J-Hey was called out on the field, but you can see he did a Javy-type slide, sliding around the tag and keeping his hand on the base. It didn’t take long for the review crew to reverse the call on the field. That brought up Javy [VIDEO].
Baez drove in Bryant and Heyward with his double and it was 5-2 Cubs.
The bullpen then set to work after Hendricks left. Randy Rosario did a good job until he ran out of gas in his second inning of work and served up a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Hunter Renfroe, briefly making the game close at 5-4. RBI hits by Addison Russell and Victor Caratini in the eighth made it 8-4, and then it was Javy time again [VIDEO] in the ninth after singles by Bryant and Heyward. Baez’s 19th of the year made it 11-4 and again gave him the team lead in home runs (and league lead in RBI with 71). Rob Zastryzny allowed a pair of garbage-time runs to the Padres in the last of the ninth to make the final score 11-6.
Five Cubs had two hits on the night: Baez, Bryant, Heyward, Happ and Schwarber, and overall the Cubs pounded out 13 hits and scored in double figures for the 15th time this year, a major-league high. The win also improved the Cubs’ record in blowout games (wins by five or more runs) to 19-8. For anyone still questioning whether Heyward’s resurgence is for real, his numbers since May 26 say it is: .331/.378/.500 (53-for-160) with 13 doubles, a triple and four home runs. Overall J-Hey is hitting .286/.347/.435 this year, very close to his numbers in his single year in St. Louis. He appears, at last, to be the guy the Cubs thought they were getting when they signed him.
But the night belonged to Javy, whose numbers (as well as prowess in the field and on the basepaths) might very well put him in the MVP conversation at the end of this season. In the meantime, everyone across the country is in for a treat watching him in the Home Run Derby and starting in the All-Star Game. One last note about Baez, from his teammate Schwarber:
#Cubs Baez wasn't feeling well today but gritted it out. Schwarber: "It's classic Javy. He's a grinder. People see the flash, and people see the style. Here we see the toughness and the grit. That's something he brings to all of us."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) July 15, 2018
The win, coupled with the Brewers’ doubleheader loss to the Pirates (thanks, Pittsburgh!) Saturday, put the Cubs 1½ games in first place and thus guaranteed they will be in first place through the All-Star break. At 54-38 they also are four games ahead of Milwaukee (55-42) in the loss column.
The Cubs go for the sweep of the Padres Sunday afternoon. Jon Lester will go for the Cubs and Eric Lauer starts for the Padres. Game time is 3:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage Sunday is via WGN.