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SportsMonday: Cubs Dessert In The Desert

I caught a huge break Sunday.

I was watching the Cubs game when guests arrived for dinner. As the game against the Diamondbacks went to extras, I managed to keep it on with the sound down during cheese-and-crackers but when the meal was served it was time to turn it off and head for the dining room.

I could have paused it and started it again when I returned, but dude, there are 162 games in the MLB season. I'm not going to catch every inning of every one.

Instead, I turned on the TV about an hour-and-a-half later to find . . . the top of the 15th and a replay of Tyler Chatwood, of all people, hitting a leadoff double! Awesome managing, Mr. Maddon, declining to bring in final Cubs bench player Taylor Davis to pinch hit and instead sending Chatwood up there against an opposing pitcher who turned out to have been his childhood friend.

Slightly less awesome was that Chatwood felt the nightmare injury coming on during his trip to second. The dreaded groin pull loomed, although apparently it may only qualify as the slightly less-scary groin tightness. In any event, Chatwood stayed on base, advanced slowly to third on Albert Almora's ground single to center, and then seemed to convince Maddon not to burn Davis or a starting pitcher as a pinch-runner. Chatwood easily jogged home when Ben Zobrist then launched an ultra-clutch, two-run double.

Zobrist moved up on the throw home that failed to get Almora and then good old Anthony Rizzo came through with the sacrifice fly that proved the difference after a wild bottom half of the frame in what turned out to be a 6-5 victory. The win moved the Cubs up to 14-12 on the season, good enough for second in the NL Central. The Brewers (15-14) have fallen into third, a half game behind the Cubs.

We have known for a while that Zobrist is the ultimate teammate, and an after-the-game interview with Maddon proved it again. It turned out that before the game, the veteran went to the manager and suggested he put David Bote, who had hit two home runs the previous game, in the lineup instead of himself. Bote ended up going 1-for-7, so it didn't work out perfectly, but heck, it was the thought that counts, right?

And of course then a fresh Zobrist was available to pinch hit later in the game and eventually do damage toward the end.

The manager is walking an absolute tightrope with the 'pen so far this season, but so far so good. And this extra-inning win was especially sweet because it is followed by an off day. Several relievers who had multiple appearances over the weekend or who worked more than an inning on Sunday would have needed to take the game off if there had been one today.

In fact, Maddon worked it well enough that he had one guy remaining when lefty Kyle Ryan got roughed up in the bottom of the final inning. Allen Webster came on for his third appearance in three days and wasn't exactly dominant. But Nick Ahmed's long fly ball came up just short when Zobrist caught it on the warning track.

Next up is a quick trip to the Northwest to face the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday evening at 9:10 and then on Wednesday at the unusual, even-on-the-West Coast 5:40 p.m. And next weekend the squad returns home to open the season series with the St. Louis Cardinals.

It is the Cardinals who have moved to the front of the division and sport a 17-10 overall mark heading into this week.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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