Cubs hoping work on the bases pays big dividends down the stretch

The Cubs led the majors with 64 outs on base in 2019 but have seen a dramatic improvement in 2020. They rank 15th in outs on base this season.

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The Cubs’ Javier Baez steals second base as Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor tries to control the throw during Tuesday’s game.

The Cubs’ Javier Baez steals second base as Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor tries to control the throw during Tuesday’s game.

David Banks/AP

Being a better team on the basepaths has been a big point of emphasis for David Ross since he became manager, and it has shown in the Cubs’ recent wins.

With the offense slowly coming around, being aggressive and taking an extra base can make a difference down the stretch, as illustrated in the 6-5 victory Tuesday against the Indians.

But Ross was quick to point out after the game that the team still has room to improve after a few mistakes in the win prevented some potential big innings.

The team led the league with 64 outs on base in 2019 but ranks 15th in OOB this season.

“We try to talk about responsible baserunning,” Ross said. “You don’t ever want to take the aggressiveness out of the guys. I think knowing game situations is important, knowing the game state means a lot. That being said, we still are going to make some mistakes. We’re not perfect or robots by any means. Every mistake is a moment to teach and get better, so that’s the way I look at it.’’

One of those teachable moments came in the fifth inning as Willson Contreras was thrown out trying to turn a single into a double after the Cubs had scored two runs with a chance to score more.

Later in the game, Ian Happ was caught stealing before the Cubs scored another run. But while Ross wants his players to read game situations, he knows that he also has to put players in positions to succeed.

“You just kind of have conversations and try to rein them back into what may be a different way to look at certain situations,” Ross said. “But overall, I’ve been very proud of the group.

“There’s definitely some scenarios that the manager puts them in that may not be the best situation to send a guy every once in a while. So we’re all accountable.”

Darvish’s ERA gets help

If Yu Darvish wins the National League Cy Young Award, the surprise he received Wednesday could be a deciding factor.

Darvish allowed three earned runs in seven innings in his no-decision Tuesday, with two of those runs coming in the third inning after Delino DeShields’ bunt single and Kris Bryant’s throwing error.

On Wednesday, the official scorer ruled that only one of the runs in the inning was earned, lowering Darvish’s ERA from 2.00 to 1.86. The Cubs’ ace ranks second in the NL in ERA behind fellow Cy Young candidate Trevor Bauer, who has a 1.71 ERA for the Reds.

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