I was getting ready to criticize the Cubs in this recap for bad baserunning choices in this game (Ian Happ, caught stealing; Willson Contreras, out trying to take an extra base).
But then Javier Baez did some vintage Javy things on the basepaths, and despite a blown save by Jeremy Jeffress, just his second of the year, the Cubs pulled out a 6-5 win when Cameron Maybin was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.
It had been quite some time since the Cubs won on a walkoff HBP:
That's the first #Cubs walkoff hit by pitch since June 12, 2008 (Reed Johnson, 12th inning vs. Braves)— Al Yellon (@bleedcubbieblue) September 16, 2020
Now let’s go back to the beginning of this wacky game. Yu Darvish raced through the Cleveland order quickly in the first two innings, and by the time he’d finished inning number 2, the Cubs had a 1-0 lead thanks to Javy [VIDEO].
That ball: Crushed!
But the Indians took the lead in the third thanks to a couple of doubles and a bunt on which Kris Bryant made a bad throw. If I had been scoring the game I’d have called that an error all the way, which would have made one of the runs unearned. Regardless, Cleveland was ahead 2-1 — but it could have been more runs for them if not for this outstanding throw by Jason Heyward [VIDEO].
Great tag by Victor Caratini, too, to hold the score at 2-1.
Cleveland plated another run in the fifth to make it 3-1, but that lead didn’t last long. In the bottom of the fifth, Happ doubled with one out and KB singled him in [VIDEO].
Bryant took second on a wild throw to the plate, where he scored on a double by Anthony Rizzo [VIDEO].
That tied the game at 3. Willson Contreras followed with a single, but Rizzo had to hold at third. Contreras tried to take second but was thrown out. That wasn’t a smart call, Willson — there was one out at the time and the Cubs could have had two runners on base. Kyle Schwarber flied to right to end the inning — maybe Rizzo scores on that if there’s only one out.
Rizzo did make a terrific defensive play in the sixth to help hold the score at 3-3, an over-the-shoulder, tumbling catch of a pop foul [VIDEO].
In the seventh, Happ committed another baserunning gaffe when he tried to steal second and was thrown out easily. The Cubs did score a run in that inning to take a 4-3 lead. Bryant walked and Rizzo singled him to third, where he scored on this sac fly by Contreras [VIDEO].
Then in the eighth, the Cubs plated an important insurance run when Javy did himself some Javy. After he was hit by a pitch leading off the inning, he took off for second as Jason Heyward struck out and that turned into some baserunning fun [VIDEO].
That’s just amazing heads-up baserunning, and good work by third-base coach Will Venable helping Javy out as he approached the bag. The play was scored stolen base/error on the catcher, and I don’t see how that’s not two errors — look at the throw to the plate. A good throw might have gotten Baez, but that throw was offline. Javy said, after the game:
Javy Baez, on stealing second in 8th, and then scoring when Sandy Leon's throw sailed into CF:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 16, 2020
"I wasn't thinking of trying to score on that, but after the ball went into the outfield, it was time to improvise."
That’s one of the best things Baez does on a baseball field — improvise.
The improvisation provided an extra run for a 5-3 lead, which turned out to be really important when Jeffress served up a two-run homer to Francisco Lindor in the top of the ninth.
In the bottom of the inning, veteran lefty Oliver Perez walked Bryant with one out. Rizzo singled KB to third, and Perez was replaced by righthander Nick Wittgren.
It was not a good day for Wittgren. He ran a 1-1 count on Contreras, then hit him. Maybin batted for Billy Hamilton (who’d replaced Schwarber for defense in the top of the inning). Maybin almost didn’t have time to get set in the batter’s box when this happened (the video includes both HBP [VIDEO].
So this game doesn’t get much for style points (except for Javy!), but a win is a win, the Cubs’ third straight.
Interesting note: It was the second time this year the Cubs had been hit by pitches at least four times in a game, but check this out: It had happened three other times to the Cubs since 2003, but before that, not since 1904!
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The Brewers, after being no-hit Sunday and scoring just four runs in 16 innings in a doubleheader Monday, exploded for 18 against the Cardinals Tuesday. That dropped St. Louis to five games behind the Cubs. The Reds, who beat the Pirates Tuesday, are 5½ back and the Brewers remain six games behind the Cubs. That leaves us here for various magic numbers:
In effect, a couple of those numbers are lower because some of the teams behind the Cubs are playing each other and someone has to lose those games. Further, the Cubs currently are the No. 2 seed in the NL postseason picture because as of the end of play Tuesday they hold the tiebreaker over the Braves, which in this case is divisional record (the Cubs are 21-15 within the NL Central, the Braves 19-14 within the NL East).
The Cubs will go for the sweep of this brief two-game set (and also a sweep of the four-game season series vs. the Tribe) Tuesday evening in Wrigley Field. Jon Lester will start for the Cubs and Aaron Civale will go for Cleveland. Game time is again 7:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be on Marquee Sports Network.