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Cubs 6, Padres 5: El Mago works his magic again

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Javier Baez had three hits and an “El Mago” tag, and the Cubs won their fourth in a row.

Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

Some of the play in the Cubs’ 6-5 win over the Padres was sloppy, as it was Friday. I’m going to close the complaint department door on that, though, because it was hot and tropical at the ballpark Saturday and just as happens in extremely cold weather, it’s hard for players to be at their best in games like this. They wear long pants, heavy polyester jerseys, shirts under the jerseys to wick away moisture... I can totally understand some of the misplays and errors.

Javier Baez didn’t have any issues, though. He singled, doubled and homered and made an El Mago tag play that helped Craig Kimbrel post his sixth save of the season.

Let’s head back to the beginning. The Padres got a gift double in the first inning when Robel Garcia misplayed Manuel Margot’s drive to left. Now let me open the complaint department door just a bit, because... Robel Garcia in left field? That was his first MLB game in the outfield. He played just six games there at Iowa this year. Seriously... don’t play Robel Garcia in left field. Sure, it’s nice to have his bat in the lineup, but that was a bad defensive outfield Joe Maddon ran out there Saturday (except Albert Almora Jr. in center field).

Fortunately, nothing came of that and the Cubs took advantage of the wind blowing out and some sketchy Padres fielding. Baez’s bloop to center dropped for a double, then he took third on ball four to Kris Bryant. Baez scored on a groundout by Anthony Rizzo, and then it was Garcia’s turn to do what he does best — hit [VIDEO].

That didn’t miss being a three-run homer by much, instead, it was a run-scoring triple.

Unfortunately, Jose Quintana couldn’t hold the lead. He ran a lot of long counts early, and in the third Fernando Tatis Jr. led off with a homer. Fun fact (for Tatis, anyway):

Margot followed with a ball Addison Russell should have caught, or at least moved off the ball so Almora could grab it. Instead, it dropped for a gift double and Manny Machado followed with a two-run blast that gave the Padres the lead.

The Cubs tied the game up right away. Baez led off the third with his second hit of the game, a single up the middle. Bryant singled him to third and Rizzo was next [VIDEO].

More sketchy defense from the Padres. There was only one play on that ground ball, and the Padres failed to make it, resulting in an infield RBI single for Rizzo, tying the game.

The Padres took the lead in the fourth on two singles, a bunt and a sacrifice fly, but the Cubs once again knotted things up in the bottom of the inning. Russell singled to lead off the inning and went to third on a double by David Bote. Quintana grounded out (on a nice play by Tatis) and Almora hit a ball right to third base which resulted in a tag play at the plate, with Russell out on a contact play.

Never fear, El Mago is here! [VIDEO]

Javy’s 24th of the year was crushed:

And just like that, the Cubs led 6-4. The two-run lead didn’t last long, as Hunter Renfroe homered off Quintana with one out in the fifth to make it 6-4.

Q didn’t pitch that badly, I thought. He walked one and struck out seven, and the long balls? Maybe due somewhat to the humid air and wind blowing out.

Brandon Kintzler took over for the sixth and didn’t get much help from his defense. Bote made a throwing error allowing the leadoff hitter to reach, and then yet another popup into short center field dropped among several Cubs fielders. Fortunately, Kintzler was covering second base and Almora threw the ball to him for a weird 8-1 force play at second. A single put runners on first and second, but Kintzler retired Tatis and Margot to end the inning.

Odd terminology, but you know what Joe means.

Steve Cishek threw a scoreless seventh, helped out by a terrific catch by Bryant on a long drive by Machado, caught up against the ivy in left field. It was just about this time that the wind shifted to northeast and the temperature dropped at least 15 degrees, as thunderstorms in the north suburbs forced some outflow winds toward the north side of Chicago even as they didn’t threaten the game with stoppage at all.

Pedro Strop, who had a rough outing Friday, looked good in this one, recording three outs on just eight pitches. The Cubs, meanwhile, were completely stifled by Padres relievers, who retired the last 10 Cubs they faced, four by strikeout.

And so things were set up once again for Craig Kimbrel, throwing in his second consecutive game and fourth in the last five days. He gets a great ovation every time he enters, and obviously situations like this are why the Cubs are paying him the big bucks.

He was not sharp in this game. His fastball command was off and he walked Wil Myers to lead off the inning. After Tatis attempted to bunt him along but popped the bunt up to Bote, Myers tried to steal second with Margot at bat.

El Mago said, “No, you will not do that!” [VIDEO]

We have seen Javy do this before, a no-look tag. It never fails to impress me. This El Mago tag was on Myers’ foot just before his hand touched second base. The play was reviewed, but the call stood, and now the Cubs are one out from victory with no one on base. Machado hit the ball hard off Kimbrel, but right to Bote at third, and the Cubs won the ballgame.

Kimbrel wasn’t sharp, as noted. He was getting strikes with his breaking stuff, but his fastball (at 97) was all over the place. I would assume he’s not available Sunday after four appearances in five days, and a 20-pitch outing in this one.

One more Maddon comment that I found illuminating:

I’d concur with that. Russell has been hitting better lately, but his fielding, usually solid, has been shaky. I’d guess he might not start Sunday’s game.

Here are a few words from Javy after the game. [VIDEO]

So the Cubs have gone 7-1 on this homestand so far, a great start to the second half of the season, and now ride a four-game winning streak into Sunday’s series finale with a chance to sweep the Padres. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and Cal Quantrill will go for San Diego. Game time again is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage Sunday will be via WGN.