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Cubs 6, Padres 5: Whatever it takes

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The Cubs took advantage of some poor Padres defense to win the series opener.

Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

What a strange little game, the Cubs’ 6-5 win over the Padres on a steamy afternoon at Wrigley Field.

The Padres had four hits in the first inning, but managed just one run, and a couple of the hits were infield dribblers. Jon Lester then settled down and threw a quick second inning on just nine pitches, but served up a two-run homer to Manny Machado in the third to make it 3-0 Padres.

Machado got booed in the lineup introduction and when he came to bat. I’m not sure I get this. Why? Because he made a comment about not hustling during the World Series? Weird.

Anyway, the Cubs got those runs back and more in the fourth. They put together a couple of infield hits of their own (Albert Almora Jr., Javier Baez) and Kris Bryant walked to load the bases.

If you read today’s game preview, you saw this little blurb about Anthony Rizzo:

Rizzo has 108 plate appearances since his last home run, which was in the ninth inning June 15 at Dodger Stadium. He hasn’t gone deep at home since the third inning May 24, a span of 103 plate appearances at Wrigley Field.

Boom! Both those streaks are over! [VIDEO]

That ball had a little help from the wind blowing out, but a home run is a home run, and the Cubs had a 4-3 lead. Not only did Rizzo break both those streaks, but it was also his first grand slam since August 16, 2017 off Homer Bailey, then of the Reds. It was the fourth slam of Rizzo’s career, and his 20th home run of the season:

Two innings later, Lester gave up the lead on a two-out RBI double by Padres catcher Francisco Mejia, who came into the game hitting .207/.264/.342. It could have been more runs for the Padres, but for this call at first base that was overturned on review [VIDEO].

Honestly, I think sometimes Javy takes too much time on those types of plays, thinking that he can just “El Mago” himself into making them on time. That one, fortunately, went the Cubs’ way.

And then in the bottom of that inning, Javy got the Cubs the lead right back. [VIDEO]

That was Javy’s 23rd, and his first since July 3, a span of 47 plate appearances.

Lester recorded the first two outs of the sixth and then faced Machado, who had already singled and homered off him. This time, Lester won the battle [VIDEO].

Steve Cishek threw a scoreless seventh, and then Pedro Strop’s first pitch of the eighth inning to pinch-hitter Josh Naylor was deposited into the bleachers for a game-tying home run. Pedro then issued a walk, and a throwing error by Baez getting the ball back to Strop allowed the runner to advance. There was a lot of just sloppy play on the Cubs’ part up to this point, and in addition I still have to wonder whether Strop is 100 percent. The Cubs activated Carl Edwards Jr. from the injured list Friday and perhaps he will get some setup opportunities.

To the bottom of the eighth, then, in a tie game. With one out, Rizzo singled and went to third on a throwing error on a ground ball by Addison Russell. Jason Heyward was given a Manfred to load the bases, That brought up David Bote, and... well, watch [VIDEO].

Bote beat the relay from the plate at first base, and when Eric Hosmer dropped the ball, Russell kept running and plated the lead run, taking advantage of the chance to score when it presented itself.

That brought in Craig Kimbrel for a save opportunity, and Kimbrel has been getting loud ovations every time he runs in from the bullpen.

He struck out Hunter Renfroe, walked Franmil Reyes, got Hosmer on a curveball (he threw almost nothing but curveballs to Hosmer), then ended it with Mejia at bat [VIDEO].

That pitch was right on the edge of the zone, perfectly placed (pitch 6):

But you can also see in the video above the pitch-framing skills of Martin Maldonado. Maldonado has yet to record his first hit as a Cub, but he’s already shown his defensive abilities. He’s a great pickup.

Now, about the weather conditions. Yes, it was hot; the stands began to empty out in the middle innings. I did see one woman taken out of the bleachers via wheelchair as she apparently was overheated. But thanks to some cloud cover and a breeze blowing out, it was not as oppressively hot as predicted, certainly not as hot as it was a little over a year ago, June 29, 2018, when the game-time temp was 96 and the sun was blazing down. I wouldn’t even put Friday in the top 10 steamiest days at Wrigley Field.

Going into Friday night’s divisional action (Cardinals at Reds, Brewers at Diamondbacks), the Cubs lead Milwaukee by 2½ games and St. Louis by three.

Saturday afternoon at Wrigley, the Cubs will go for their fourth straight victory with Jose Quintana on the mound. Joey Lucchesi will start for the Padres. Game time is again 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via ABC7 Chicago.