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Cubs 3, Phillies 2: Javier Baez walks it off

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... after not starting his second straight game.

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Javier Baez didn’t start Monday’s Cubs loss to the Phillies. And just before Tuesday’s game, there was the ominous news that he had undergone an MRI on his sore right heel, injured Sunday in Washington.

But there he was, to a loud ovation from the remnants of an announced crowd of 36,768 on a cold, windy night at Wrigley Field, pinch-hitting for Daniel Descalso with the bases loaded, the game tied, and one out in the ninth inning.

This, as you likely already know, is what happened [VIDEO].

Len Kasper was right: “It only took El Mago one pitch tonight.” And that was after this!

You can see how the Cubs miss Javy when he’s not in the lineup. But one pitch was enough for him to deliver a 3-2 Cubs walkoff win over the Phillies, their fourth walkoff victory in their last eight home games. Fun, to be sure, but perhaps a few wins going forward with a bit less drama? More fun in this fun fact:

Let’s rewind to the beginning of this one, and it was almost a rewind to Monday’s game. Jose Quintana was sharp over his six innings, allowing just two hits and three walks. Just two Phillies got past first base on him, on a Jean Segura double in the first inning and a stolen base by J.T. Realmuto in the fourth. Realmuto went to third on a throwing error by Willson Contreras, but was stranded.

Meanwhile, the Cubs were doing mostly the same thing they’d done Monday — get lots of baserunners and leave them there. They did score in the first, taking a 1-0 lead on a single by Kris Bryant and walk to Anthony Rizzo, after which Contreras’ infield out [VIDEO] scored Bryant.

That’s where it stayed, score-wise, until the seventh inning. The Cubs had RISP in the second, third and fourth innings, but could not score. Is this starting to sound depressingly familiar? It appeared a run had scored on a double by Bryant in the third, but the run was erased after review [VIDEO].

There was negative crowd reaction after Kyle Schwarber was put back on third base, but it was quite clear from the video that the ball had bounced over the basket and hit the advertising sign behind it, making Bryant’s hit a ground-rule double. The Cubs thus had runners on second and third with two out, but Rizzo flied to center to end the inning.

There were a couple of nice defensive plays behind Quintana, notably this sliding catch [VIDEO] by Jason Heyward in the third.

So the game went 1-0 into the seventh, and Carl Edwards Jr. was summoned. He immediately got himself in trouble with a single and double sandwiched around a force play, putting runners on second and third with one out. CJ induced a comebacker for the second out. Brandon Kintzler entered to face Andrew McCutchen, and he singled up the middle to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead.

I dunno. I mean, I could complain about CJ not getting the job done again, or Kintzler giving up a hit to a tough, veteran hitter, but the Cubs did win the game. It does point out the need to, eventually, add someone, anyone who can get outs after the seventh inning to this bullpen. Or get Edwards right — his velocity still seems down. If you look at the pitch-by-pitch for that seventh inning, you’ll see he dialed it up to 94-95 on the first hitter he faced, but by the time he departed, his fastball was down to 92-93. Something appears to be not right.

Anyway, Kintzler threw a 1-2-3 eighth, the Cubs put runners on first and second with two out in the bottom of the inning and didn’t score, and then Xavier Cedeno and Kyle Ryan (two lefties in one inning!) threw a scoreless ninth.

That led up to Javy’s heroics. It started with Bryant working a walk. Rizzo smacked a double down the right-field line, and Contreras hit a ball to Bryce Harper in right, far too shallow for KB to attempt to score. Heyward was intentionally passed to load the bases, and that brought up Albert Almora Jr. [VIDEO]

The ball dribbled out very slowly to Phillies reliever Juan Nicasio. Bryant, going on contact, touched the plate just before the ball nestled in Realmuto’s mitt, and it was ruled “call stands” on review. That tied the game, then there was instant crowd reaction when Baez came out of the dugout to bat for Descalso, and that’s where we came in.

What if he hadn’t and this game had gone to extra innings? Victor Caratini was the only bench player left:

Well, probably not. Baez was still running a bit gingerly going to first base on his game-winner, so he wasn’t quite likely ready to play the field. But Caratini has played third base before. Most likely, he plays there, Bryant moves to short (he’s done that before, too) and Addison Russell would have wound up at second.

Fortunately, all’s well that ends well and that wasn’t necessary. But the Cubs have to start doing two things better: getting runners on base home (they were 0-for-9 with RISP entering the ninth) and getting better late-inning bullpen work. At some point, too, starting pitchers are going to have to consistently get into the seventh inning, which would shorten things up and require fewer innings out of the pen.

Nevertheless, a win is a win, and combined with losses by the Brewers and Pirates, and the Cardinals being rained out, the Cubs gained on all those clubs. They now lead the Brewers by two full games, the Pirates by 3½ and the Cardinals by 4½.

I was in full winter gear for Tuesday night’s game, which had a game-time temp of 50 that dropped into the 40s with winds picking up late in the evening. This forecast claims it’s going to be in the 70s in Chicago today and this evening. I’ll believe that when I see it. Cole Hamels gets the start for the Cubs and Cole Irvin will go for the Phillies. And as for Javy:

Knowing Javy, he’ll want to play.

Game time is 7:05 p.m. CT and TV coverage Wednesday night will be via NBC Sports Chicago (and on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Phillies market territories).