Cubs’ Javy Báez, Kris Bryant let ‘game talk’ vs. Pirates, in walk year

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Maddie Lee
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Cubs core lets ‘game talk’ in win vs. Pirates, walk year originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo stood at the corners. Javier Báez stepped into the batter’s box. “Ja-vy” chants showered the trio of Cubs hitters whose extension talks had yet to produce contracts.

Then, Báez added to his case. He hit a sharp ground ball into left field, scoring Bryant and tacking on the final run of the Cubs’ 5-1 victory over the Pirates Saturday at Wrigley Field.

Anyone ready to jump to conclusions about this Cubs offense after Opening Day got something to chew on. And anyone worried what the pressure of 2022 free agency could mean for the Cubs core got some reassurance.  

“That's something we're going to have to live with as a team because we have so many guys in free agent years,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said this week.

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Depending on option years and possible extensions, over half of the Cubs’ active roster could enter free agency after this season. Báez, Bryant and Rizzo headline the group. And they – along with Jason Heyward (2-for-4 with a home run) and Willson Contreras (two walks batting leadoff) – led the Cubs offense Saturday.

“I thought we had really good at-bats up and down the lineup,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “It was nice, quality at-bats throughout.”

Saturday’s offensive performance doesn’t guarantee that the Cubs will have a bounce-back season at the plate. But it does prove that their two hits on Opening Day didn’t doom the team to repeat last year’s woes, even though the lineup remains largely unchanged from 2020.

“That’s kind of who we are right there,” Bryant said after the game Saturday. “Pitchers are out there throwing strikes, a lot less walks. Guys having better at-bats. I think we’ll see more of that as we get into the flow of things with the season ramping up and getting back into our routines and going out there and competing.”

Báez (2-for-4) logged the Cubs’ first hit of the game and then stole two bases to get into position to score on a bloop single from centerfielder Jake Marisnick.

Bryant hit the Cubs’ first homer of the season, pointing to his infant son in the stands as he crossed the plate.

On Thursday, Rizzo recorded the Cubs’ first hit of the season, a double, and he kept the streak alive with a single Saturday.

At least in the second game of the season, contract pressure didn’t seem to burden the Cubs’ core.

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“I believe wholeheartedly that guys will overcome that, they will get together, and they will play exceptionally well,” Hoyer said. “And I have a lot of confidence in this team going into the year. As a group, we have to be able to handle that uncertainty, as individuals and as a team because there are a lot of guys that are (impending) free agents.”

Another one of those guys is closer Craig Kimbrel, who has a 2022 club option. Kimbrel struck out the side in order to finish Saturday’s game.

As Báez said back in February: “I’m going to let my game talk.”

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