Cubs steal four-game sweep of Mets in New York with 2-0 victory
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NEW YORK — The Cubs have spent two months putting runners at third base with fewer than two outs and leaving them there.
So when Javy Baez got there on a single by Willson Contreras in the seventh inning of a scoreless game Sunday, he didn’t wait for somebody to drive him in.
‘‘Javy never really ceases to amaze anybody,’’ left-hander Jon Lester said.
Baez signaled to Contreras to take a big lead to draw a throw to first from Mets left-hander Steven Matz.
‘‘I knew exactly what he was thinking,’’ Contreras said.
As soon as Matz committed to first, Baez committed to the plate. By the time first baseman Adrian Gonzalez threw home, Baez was safe with the steal and Contreras was headed safely to second.
Less than an hour later, the Cubs had a 2-0 victory for their first four-game sweep in New York in 27 years. Their 6-1 road trip put them 10 games above .500 for the first time this season.
‘‘Absolutely, it’s the best week of the year for us,’’ manager Joe Maddon said.
It started with a late-night victory at home May 27 against the Giants, followed by a sleep-deprived victory the next afternoon in Pittsburgh. It concluded with a 14-inning victory late Saturday, followed by another quick turnaround and another victory.
‘‘Hopefully, we keep it rolling,’’ said Lester (6-2), who flirted with a no-hitter for 5‰ innings before finishing with two singles allowed in seven innings.
As the Cubs head home to open a six-game homestand, which starts Tuesday against Jake Arrieta’s Phillies, they might be without shortstop Addison Russell, who sprained his left middle finger on a swing in the fifth.
‘‘It’s a good thing we get [Monday] off,’’ said Russell, who didn’t seem to think he would need more than two or three days to return.
If the Cubs keep pitching like they have for the last week, Russell should be able to take as much time as he needs.
With left-hander Mike Montgomery plugged into the rotation in place of injured right-hander Yu Darvish (triceps), the starters went 4-1 with 1.98 ERA and averaged six innings a start during the trip.
‘‘Monty’s stepped in and done an unbelievable job,’’ said Lester, who walked the first two batters he faced before retiring the next 14. ‘‘He’s done that in the past for us, and it’s nice to see again that he’s doing that. [Tyler Chatwood] threw the ball really well the other night, and we all know what to expect from Kyle [Hendricks] and [Jose Quintana]. Hopefully, we just keep it going.’’
The Cubs are only two games behind the first-place Brewers in the National League Central after making up 2½ games during their four days in New York. And if their pitching has provided much of the substance for their big surge into June, Baez has provided much of the style.
When Baez stole home on a play the Cubs last practiced in spring training, it marked the team’s first steal of home since Baez did it Aug. 30 of last season against the Pirates.
‘‘He has the best instincts as a baserunner and as a player,’’ Contreras said after the play the Cubs plotted as soon as they had the right runners at the corners with the right left-hander on the mound.
‘‘I don’t know if words can really describe the reaction,’’ Lester said. ‘‘I saw that happen and literally just kind of laughed. That’s all you really can do. It was an unbelievable play.’’
‘‘I just went for it; I’m glad I made it,’’ said Baez, who smiled when he was asked if he would watch the TV highlights and added, ‘‘Yeah, I would love to see myself.’’
One out and an infield single later, Contreras added an insurance run when he scored on a sacrifice fly to backpedaling second baseman Luis Guillorme, who caught Ben Zobrist’s pop-up flat-footed in front of right fielder Jay Bruce.