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More Javy Baez magic and the first bit of evidence that one of Theo Epstein's big-money free agent signings might not be a bust added up to a great day at the ballpark Sunday for the Cubs. It can be said at this point that they have officially bounced all the way back (to 10-10 overall) from a rough start to the season.
Overall the team's hitting was lousy just about all weekend against a Diamondbacks team that is also essentially break-even on the season. But for a couple windblown, run-scoring fly-ball "doubles" on Friday and six total hits being just enough Sunday, this series could have gone the other way in a hurry.
Baez was scorching coming into the series (11 hits in his previous four games) but then went the other direction about as quickly as he rounds a base, striking out three straight times Friday to start an 0-for-5 day. He found his way again at the plate on Sunday just in time, driving in the Cubs' first run with a triple to right-center.
Then Javy made their bottom-of the ninth inning rally possible with one of his awesome flashes of baseball wizardry.
With two strikes, Baez ruined what looked like a perfect pitch from Diamondbacks flamethrower Archie Bradley, a knee-high breaking ball just off the plate. Just reaching that pitch and fouling it off would have been impressive but he was able to send it rolling down the first base line and into right field.
Baez, who had lingered in the box for a few moments after hitting his triple (but still made it to third easily because that is just how he rolls), raced out of the box this time and made it clear he would go for two. When Diamondback outfielder Adam Jones felt the heat and bobbled the ball, Baez was around second heading for third.
That extra base made all the difference because it meant the Cubs, who had failed to move Anthony Rizzo over and then in earlier in the game after a leadoff double, only needed a reasonably deep fly ball or a well-placed ground ball to end this one. David Bote provided, sending the game-winner through the right side shortly thereafter.
Tyler Chatwood missed out on the win when Pedro Strop threw one of the worst pitches of his life to Jarrod Dyson in the top of the ninth. In his 10-year major league career, Dyson hat hit all of 16 home runs. He blasted Strop's hanging breaking ball to make it 1-1.
But the heroics in the bottom of the ninth made all of that moot and gave Strop the ultimate vulture win. Lucky for Chatwood, no one who knows baseball these days cares about that stat. That much was made clear in capital letters last year when Jacob DeGrom won the National League Cy Young award with all of 10 victories on the season.
It is all about advanced stats now and Chatwood couldn't have been better, and couldn't have been more efficient over six stellar, shutout innings in his spot start in relief of injured starter Jon Lester. The righthander, who took the mound on Sunday in part because the Diamondbacks have struggled mightily against righties this season, threw only 71 pitches total.
Chatwood lost his way early after signing a three-year $38 million contract and stayed lost for the rest of 2018, leading the world in walk rate. He seemed to suffer from the affliction that sets in with ballplayers who try to make adjustments when they are struggling and then forget what it was that made them successful in previous seasons. He seems cured.
Next up for the Cubs is three games with the Dodgers starting Tuesday. Then they travel to Arizona to face the Snakes again over the weekend.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.
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