Sports Cubs survive scary ninth in critical 6-4 victory over Brewers
Besides, it’s really not in this team’s nature to look in the rear view mirror.
But with the Brewers creeping up in the Central Division and the Cardinals only footsteps behind them, it would be foolish to ignore the possibility the Cubs might have to do this the hard way if they don’t start pulling away.
So who’s paying attention to the wild card?
“You see it,” Anthony Rizzo said Wednesday afternoon as the U.S. Open blared from the visitors’ clubhouse TVs. “There’s tennis on here, which is crazy because usually there’s MLB Network on every TV. You see it. It’s impossible to avoid with all the coverage. The Brewers are ahead (in the wild-card race), but there are like nine teams in it. I know the Brewers and Cardinals are playing good baseball. It’s going to be a fun finish. It’s exciting, and as a baseball fan that’s what you should want.”
The best way for the Cubs to avoid the gridlock of the wild-card contenders was to salvage the series finale at Miller Park, giving them a four-game lead with 23 to play. They did just that Wednesday night, shotgunning past the Brewers 6-4 before 37,427 at Miller Park.
It was an important victory for the Cubs, who may have created widespread panic if they had been swept.
“It was like a playoff game,” Javier Baez said. “To lose this series yesterday and come back and play hard again and get this win, it’s huge, because in our division it’s really close.”
Coming off Tuesday’s 11-1 loss, this was as close to a must-win game as the Cubs have played this season. It was scoreless entering the fourth when Daniel Murphy homered off Jhoulys Chacin to ignite a four-run inning and give Quintana some breathing room.
After Murphy’s shot to left center, Baez did what Baez does best — create havoc and getting into the opponent’s head. Strangely, he managed to do it Wednesday while standing perfectly still.
After Baez singled, Chacin made two pick-off throws to first base, despite the fact Baez was standing on the bag and didn’t move an inch either time.
“They know I want to run, and right before ‘Riz’ stepped up to the plate, I was watching the catcher and he wasn’t giving signs so I knew (the throw) was coming back,” Baez said. “Then after the first one I looked at him again and he looked like he was giving signs, but I saw him (being) so fake about it, so I just stayed there.”
Then when Rizzo singled to center, Baez never stopped while rounding second, forcing Lorenzo Cain to make an errant throw that sailed high over third, allowing Baez to scamper home without a play.
“They know I’m not afraid to take another bag, so when I speed up like that it makes them hurry,” Baez said.
“We’ve seen that before,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s who he is. He makes things happen on the bases. He’s fearless.”
Another error on the play by shortstop Orlando Arcia sent Rizzo to third, and the Cubs added two more runs on Ben Zobrist’s RBI double and a run-scoring infield hit from Willson Contreras.
Quintana endured a hairy bottom of the fourth, but managed to allow only one run while stranding three runners. He wound up going 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits and leaving with a 6-2 lead. Quintana now has given up two or fewer earned runs in his last four starts, giving the Cubs four consistent starters for the stretch run.
Kyle Schwarber told Maddon he had back tightness before stepping up in the sixth, but proceeded to hit a massive Schwarbomb to right before coming out of the game. He’s day-to-day, Maddon said.
The Brewers pulled to within two on a two-run homer by Curtis Granderson in the seventh, but Pedro Strop survived a scary ninth, stranding two runners by striking out Granderson to end it.
“This is a tough stretch but it’s not going to be the last tough stretch we’re going to go on,” Rizzo said. “The light is at the end of the tunnel as far as we get an off day a couple of days after going home. We play well at home, and we’re pretty much home the rest of the stretch, with a trip to the (Arizona) desert.”
Don’t look back is the best advice anyone could give the Cubs at this point.