MILWAUKEE – Some people make a big deal about Cinco de Mayo or the 4th of July.
The Cubs seem to have a thing for Siete de Abril. With lots of fireworks. But nothing worth celebrating.
Exactly one year after the outfield collision that cost young slugger Kyle Schwarber his 2016 season, Cubs center fielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Javy Baez collided while chasing a popup to shallow center in the bottom of the sixth inning Friday in Milwaukee – sending another chill through the organization as their flashy young infielder lay on the Miller Park turf.
Baez gave a thumbs-up from the ground as he waited for the trainer to reach him, but he was clearly shaken up by the play. And after the trainer checked his head, face and neck area, Baez left the game – suffering no more than a bad bruise above his left eye.
“As soon as I turned around I saw J-Hey coming at me,” said Baez of the play that for its literal impact and historical context overshadowed the 2-1 loss to the Brewers that was decided on an 11th-inning wild pitch.
“That’s a really big man coming at me,” Baez said. “It was really scary.
“I was trying to feel my teeth [after the hit], and after I felt my teeth I was OK. I’ve got them. I’ve got all of them.”
For a moment some held their breath – especially after having witnessed Schwarber’s collision with then-center fielder Dexter Fowler in Arizona.
“It looked pretty violent,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “I’m just glad everyone’s OK.”
Preliminary tests quickly determined Baez was clear to avoid MLB’s concussion protocol, and he said he would be ready to play Saturday.
Schwarber’s knee was injured so severely last year he required reconstructive surgery that cost him the rest of the season – until he returned ahead of schedule to DH during the four road games of the World Series.
If nothing else, Friday’s play suggested the Cubs might want to declare April 7 the kind of holiday that gives them a mandatory day off. Or at least give their center fielders the red light when in vicinity of one of their prized young former first-round draft picks.
Until then, the story of the game looked to be the Cubs debut of Brett Anderson, the injury-prone left-hander signed over the winter to a one-year contract with two-thirds of the value tied up in workload-related bonuses.
The tying run scored on the play when neither Heyward nor Baez was able to reach the bloop Hernan Perez, which went for a two-out single that erased the Cubs’ 1-0 lead.
Perez was the first batter of the game for reliever Justin Grimm, who took over for Anderson after a two-out single, wild pitch and another single put runners at the corners.
To that point Anderson allowed only three hits and a walk to take his slim lead two outs deep into the sixth.
Anderson admitted to some nerves in his first start for the defending World Series champions and said ultimately it was a mixed-feelings start for him – pitching well and being healthy but winding up giving up the run in the sixth that allowed the Brewers to come back.
The game ended with Mike Montgomery on the mound, pitching his third inning of the night. He allowed a leadoff single to Ryan Braun, one-out walk to Jesus Aguilar and then hit pinch-hitter Jett Bandy with a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.
He quickly got ahead of Manny Pina 0-2 but then threw the wild pitch that sent Braun home with the winning run – the Cubs’ second walk-off loss in their first four games.
“I thought he pitched really well,” said Maddon, who also lauded the debut of Anderson. “When you pitch that well you expect to win those games.”
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