Javy Baez’s walk-off a nice boost for Cubs ahead of a challenging week
The Cubs (7-2) have the best record in the National League, but a potential postponement later in the week could spoil their early-season success.
The Cubs had won one-run games and blowouts this season, but not until Sunday did they get their first taste of trying to win under Major League Baseball’s new extra-innings rule.
The rule, which was implemented for this season alone, allows a runner to start each half-inning after the ninth on second base.
It looked as weird as you might expect, but does the word ‘‘weird’’ even exist in 2020?
‘‘It’s definitely different,’’ Cubs infielder David Bote said. ‘‘You learn to play the game a certain way for so long. It’s different.’’
It took the Cubs two tries to pull it off, but they came out on the winning end when Javy Baez’s walk-off single in the 11th gave them a 2-1 victory against the Pirates and their first series sweep of 2020.
Extra innings started with a literal bang when the Pirates’ Josh Bell slapped a single to left field after Jacob Stallings had been put at second to start the 10th. Left fielder Kyle Schwarber ranged to his left to field the ball and fired a strike to catcher Willson Contreras, who put the tag on Stallings as the two collided for the first out. Right-hander Ryan Tepera would finish the inning unscathed.
‘‘It was kind of the janitor toss, I guess,’’ Schwarber said. ‘‘Just get it and let it fly, and I was just praying that it was on line. Great play by Willson there holding on to the baseball. That’s old-school baseball right there. I don’t think anyone’s afraid to see that. Good, clean play all around.’’
The play loomed large when Baez hit his RBI single up the middle to end the game an inning later.
The victory gave the Cubs their third consecutive series victory and left them with the best record in the National League at 7-2. But as they prepare for four games against Royals from Monday through Thursday, the end of their week is a bit more unclear.
The Cubs are scheduled to play a three-game series against the Cardinals starting Friday in St. Louis, but the Cardinals last week became the second MLB team to have a COVID-19 outbreak. As MLB tries to figure out the situation, a potential postponement could throw a wrench into the Cubs’ early-season success.
‘‘I don’t want to say it would put us behind the eight-ball, but guys are playing well,’’ said left-hander Jon Lester, who allowed one run in six innings Sunday. ‘‘So it’s like, let’s keep running out there and see how far we can take this.
‘‘It sucks that we’re dealing with this, but it’s the nature of the beast right now. [MLB], I’m sure, will ultimately alter the plans going forward. You know, if we’re in St. Louis on Friday, we’re in St. Louis on Friday. We’ll figure it out. We’ll try to beat the Cardinals and move on to the next day. But as of today, I don’t see that happening.’’
According to multiple reports, the Cardinals were dealing with multiple new positive tests Sunday.
‘‘As we saw with the Marlins, it wasn’t like all the positives came out at once,’’ Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Saturday. ‘‘It was a couple of days with a handful, and there was one day that there were a lot. I think that’s probably the area that I think I’m focused on right now. . . .
‘‘The positives have to stop before we can really have a sense of what we’re dealing with, and I don’t know where they are yet. People far closer to the situation would know that, but those are the questions we’re going to want answered going into next weekend.’’