The Cubs defeated the Pirates 5-3 Thursday afternoon in Pittsburgh, sweeping the three-game series and winning their 10th in their last 13 tries.
And yet, I know all you want to talk about is the incredible baserunning play Javier Baez pulled off in the top of the third inning. It’s 1-0 Cubs at this point, with two out and Willson Contreras on second base.
There is SO much going on there — Pirates first baseman Will Craig with a complete brain fart, apparently forgetting he could have recorded the out by just touching first base. Then he fails to tag Javy, which Craig could have done about five different times while chasing him back toward the plate. Meanwhile, Contreras never stops running from second base to score. Javy signals safe! And only then does Baez run back toward first, which is uncovered, and a throw from catcher Michael Perez gets away, allowing Javy to take second.
That literally causes Anthony Rizzo to nearly fall down laughing in the dugout (Watch! It’s in the clip!) — and this play wound up being essentially the difference in a two-run Cubs victory.
Folks on Twitter had fun with this:
What Javier Baéz did is an example of why you should never give up on a play. Because you never know. You might just be playing the Pirates.— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) May 27, 2021
That Javier Baez video is like watching a prey animal rear up on its hind legs and convince a bear it's 10 feet tall, only in this case the bear is just a guy who's going to be in blooper compilations for the rest of his life— Dan Moore (@mademdashes) May 27, 2021
*record scratch*— Alex Lawson (@AlexxLawson) May 27, 2021
yeah that’s me. i bet you’re wondering how i ended up safe at second base on this play. pic.twitter.com/XhScvZIHql
And here’s the Pirates announcers call of the play:
The Pirates broadcast of the Javier Báez play. pic.twitter.com/WmUKunKpiO— Serenity (@HiImSerenity) May 27, 2021
I have watched baseball a long, long time. I have never seen anything like that before, and I doubt I ever will again. Javy’s baseball instincts — as you surely know — are off the charts, and he showed off just about all of them on that play. Just outstanding. And yet, the description of the play on Gameday was rather mundane:
Baez getting to second base on that play turned out to be important when the next hitter, Ian Happ, singled him in [VIDEO].
All of this happened with two out and one runner (Contreras) on base. The two runs scored as a result of Javy’s daring running provided the margin of victory.
The Cubs’ run previous to all of that, giving them that 1-0 early lead, was a solo homer by Kris Bryant in the first inning [VIDEO].
And another solo homer, this one by Patrick Wisdom in the fourth [VIDEO], pushed the Cubs out to a 4-0 advantage.
It was Wisdom’s first home run as a Cub, and also his first since September 2018, when he was with the Cardinals.
What’s most interesting about that home run is that it came after a successful Pirates challenge during Wisdom’s at bat. It appeared Wisdom had been hit by a pitch, and he sold it pretty well, but on review it was clear the ball hit the knob of the bat:
Guess the Bucs should have left the HBP alone! It worked out well for Wisdom and the Cubs, though.
Meanwhile, Kyle Hendricks was throwing seven pretty good innings. He allowed three solo home runs — he’s been prone to that this year, that makes 14 HR allowed for Kyle in 56⅓ innings — but otherwise he recorded six of his 21 outs on ground balls and another five by strikeout. He didn’t walk anyone and threw 59 strikes in 83 pitches. The homers are a concern, but at least they’re coming with no one on base.
Dan Winkler got into a bit of trouble in the eighth, loading the bases on a walk, single and hit batter, so Ryan Tepera had to be summoned to get out of the inning, which he did on a ground ball to Baez.
The Cubs picked up an important insurance run in the ninth. Eric Sogard led off with a single and one out later, Contreras doubled him to third. This grounder by Bryant [VIDEO], which eventually resulted in a double play, scored Sogard with the Cubs’ fifth run.
Tepera continued in the ninth. A runner reached when a throw by Javy pulled KB off the bag, but Tepera then retired the side (Michael Perez, Kevin Newman and Wilmer Difo), two by strikeout, to nail down the victory.
The save was Tepera’s first as a Cub — in fact, his first since 2018 when he had seven for the Blue Jays. He’s been really good lately and a perfect fill-in for Craig Kimbrel, who was unavailable after pitching in three straight games.
The win brought the Cubs temporarily into a first-place tie with the Cardinals, who play later Thursday night at Arizona. If the D-backs can beat St. Louis, the Cubs would move into first place by half a game. The Cubs are 27-22, the same record they had after 49 games in 2015, when they were a NL wild card with a 97-win season. The sweep made the Cubs 8-4 against the Pirates this season, and that’s something a good team should do against a bad one, win about two of every three games.
And thus, the complaint department door is closed and locked up tight. Savor this day!
The Cubs return home Friday afternoon (weather permitting, and it looks like it might not) to begin a three-game series against the Reds. Adbert Alzolay will start for the Cubs and Vladimir Gutierrez, making his MLB debut, is scheduled to start for Cincinnati. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network. The game will also be on MLB Network outside the Cubs and Reds market territories.