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Cubs 3, Royals 1: Javier Baez does it all

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The Cubs did what they needed to and won the first game of this series.

Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

I suppose the complaint department door should be closed after the Cubs’ 3-1 win over the Royals, but...

Seriously. They didn’t hit with runners on base. It took a couple of extra-base hits from Javier Baez to give the Cubs the win, as well as some solid relief pitching.

So, yay?

Yes, yay. Wins are wins no matter how you put them together, and the Cubs again matched their season high at 18 games over .500 with this victory. It doesn’t seem like they’re having another good year, does it? And yet, here we are.

The Royals scored first on a single, a couple of ground outs and another single, but one of those ground outs is worth watching [VIDEO].

Javy did some Javy on that one, and it’s more important than it looked; if that ball gets by, it’s at least a double, a run might have scored and the Royals might have put up more than the one run that eventually crossed the plate.

As seems to be the case so often, the Cubs were stymied by a pitcher they had not seen before. Jakob Junis held the Cubs scoreless through three innings. They broke through in the fourth. Ben Zobrist, who had been warmly welcomed back to Kauffman Stadium by Royals fans remembering his role in their 2015 World Series win, tripled. After Jason Heyward walked, Junis uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Zobrist to score to tie the game.

Not long after that, there was a brief 22-minute rain delay, not long enough to affect Cole Hamels, who resumed pitching after the delay and completed a solid six-inning outing in which he allowed seven hits and just the one run. He wasn’t quite as dominant as he had been in his first start in Pittsburgh, where he struck out nine, but the results are what’s important.

Hamels left with a 2-1 lead thanks to Javy [VIDEO].

Javy's 25th homer

Cubs win! Javy stayed hot at the plate and Cole Hamels battled through six innings of one-run ball as we won the series opener in KC! #EverybodyIn

Posted by Chicago Cubs on Monday, August 6, 2018

Baez’s 25th of the season was grabbed on the fly by a Cubs fan just to the right of the center-field hitters background. Look at the height of the arc on that ball:

Steve Cishek threw a scoreless seventh. Then, with Zobrist on base and one out in the eighth, old friend Jason Hammel entered to pitch for the Royals. Javy did not treat his former teammate well [VIDEO].

The RBI double made it 3-1 and gave Baez a .302/.335/.594 line for the season, with an OPS+ of 138, wRC+ of 141, and 4.8 bWAR (4.3 fWAR). Some are downplaying Baez’ chance to be MVP due to the low OBP (compared to the BA), but Javy’s really doing everything this year, at the plate, on the basepaths and in the field. Also:

Brandon Kintzler threw a scoreless eighth, and then with more rain beginning to fall, Pedro Strop entered in his (apparent) new role as temporary closer in the absence of Brandon Morrow. Strop threw an efficient 1-2-3 inning on only 10 pitches, a good thing because it started pouring right after the final out was recorded, as you can see near the end of this clip [VIDEO].

I suppose I’ll slam the complaint department door shut and lock it after all. There was solid pitching and enough timely hitting to win this game, even if the offense wasn’t quite what we’d like to see.

Props to Hamels, who is on his way to proving that getting out of Globe Life Park really was the key to improving his season. Hamels at GLP this year: 6.41 ERA, 1.508 WHIP, 16 home runs allowed in 59 innings. Hamels away from GLP this year: 2.58 ERA, 1.221 WHIP, seven home runs allowed in 66⅓ innings (and zero home runs allowed so far in 11 innings as a Cub). This is exactly what the Cubs needed, someone to stabilize the rotation until the other guys get back on track.

The win moved the Cubs 1½ games ahead of the idle Brewers, who will host the Padres in a three-game series beginning tonight. Hopefully the Padres can do to Milwaukee what they did to the Cubs.

In the meantime, the Cubs series in Kansas City continues Tuesday evening. Mike Montgomery goes for the Cubs and Brad Keller will start for the Royals. Game time is again 7:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage is on NBC Sports Chicago.