The Cubs magic number is down to six.
Javier Baez, the Cubs’ new full-time shortstop and still MVP candidate, homered in the first inning against Lucas Giolito and added an RBI single in the ninth, and Ben Zobrist drove in two runs with a single in a three-run fifth to power the Cubs past the White Sox 8-3 before the first sellout crowd of the season at Guaranteed Rate Field.
With half or more of the 39,724 wearing Cubs blue and chanting “MVP” when Baez first came to bat in the first inning, Baez answered by going deep for the 34th time this season. He has 110 RBI.
With the Brewers losing to the Pirates, the Cubs cut their magic number to clinch the NL Central to six. Their number for a wild card is three.
The Sox beat the Cubs 10-4 Friday in the first game of crosstown series. The series finale is Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito (10-12, 5.81 ERA) allowed five runs over 6 2/3 innings but probably deserved better. A one-out liner by Daniel Murphy in the fifth inning that carried to the left field wall was misjudged by left fielder Ryan LaMarre, who charged in as the ball as it sailed over his head, allowing Kyle Schwarber to score from second and David Bote to advance to third. Zobrist followed with his two-run base hit to give the Cubs a 5-2 lead.
Lester (17-6, 3.43) allowed three runs (two earned) over five innings.
With his 20th home run of the season, Tim Anderson went into a class by himself when he went deep against Cubs left-hander Jon Lester, becoming the only White Sox shortstop with 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in a season.
Anderson is four stolen bases shy of joining outfielders Alex Rios in 2010 and Tommie Agee in 1966 as the only Sox to post 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in one season.
Anderson and Sox manager Rick Renteria were ejected by second base umpire Joe West during the ninth inning. The Sox’ challenge that Baez slid out of the baseline breaking up a double play was overturned. Anderson threw the ball away on his throw, allowing a run to score.
Avisail Garcia and Matt Davidson had RBI singles to account for the other Sox runs.
In the Cubs’ ninth, pinch runner Terrence Gore beat third baseman Yolmer Sanchez’ throw home on Albert Almora’s fielder’s choice ground ball, and Baez made it 7-3 with an RBI single to left scoring Almora.
With shortstop Addison Russell on administrative leave, Baez has assumed full-time duty as the Cubs shortstop.