Cubs Observations: Javy Báez’ baserunning caps off Pirates sweep

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Observations: Báez’ magic sparks Cubs to sweep Pirates originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Cubs beat the Pirates 5-3 Thursday to finish a three-game sweep and improve to 27-22 this season.

Here’s 10 observations from the game.

1. El Mago strikes again. Javy Báez pulled off an insane baserunning play in the third inning to bring Willson Contreras home, halting in his tracks before first base and backpedaling towards the plate. When the dust settled, he wound up on second and later scored.

2. Báez’ deserves all the credit for not giving up on that play and making things happen, but we’d be remiss not to mention the Pirates’ blunder. All first baseman Will Craig had to do was step on first for an inning-ending force out.

3. Erik Gonzalez wasn’t going to let history repeat itself. His throw sailing up the first base line played a big part in Báez’ magic trick. When Báez hit another groundball to Gonzalez in the fifth, the third baseman fired a perfect strike to Craig for the out.

4. Báez' baserunning sparked the Cubs, but an ill-advised throw in the eighth almost cost them. Leading 4-3, Báez made a great diving stop on Adam Frazier' single but threw the ball away at first base. He and Kris Bryant got Frazier out on a 3-6-3 rundown but Wilmer Difo advanced to third with one out.

Báez was charged with a throwing error in the ninth.

5. The Cubs bullpen walked a tightrope to extend its scoreless streak to 11 straight games. Dan Winkler loaded the bases in the eighth on two walks and a hit by pitch before Ryan Tepera bailed him out.

6. Pittsburgh tagged Kyle Hendricks for three solo home runs, but that was the extent of their damage as he put a bow on his big May turnaround. Hendricks delivered his fourth quality start in five tries this month, throwing 7+ innings three times — including seven on Thursday.

7. The banged-up Cubs are maintaining a next-man up mentality. Thursday, Patrick Wisdom — recently recalled from Triple-A — started in right field and went 2-for-3 with a double and home run.

8. Wisdom got no easy introduction to right field. Thursday marked his first career big-league start in the outfield and Ben Gamel hit a rocket his way in the first inning. Wisdom hauled it in with a slight leap. Nick Martini replaced him in the eighth.

9. Wisdom’s home run caused a successful Pirates replay review to backfire. Pittsburgh's challenge in the fourth overturned a Wisdom hit by pitch, resulting in a foul ball. He went deep moments later.

10. Thursday’s win bumps the Cubs to 16-7 in May — tied for their most wins in a month since August 2019. If they win two games in the next four days, it’ll be their most wins in a month since August 2018.

On deck: The Cubs open a three-game series with the Reds Friday at Wrigley Field. First pitch is 1:20 p.m. Vladimir Gutierrez (MLB debut) and Adbert Alzolay (2-4, 4.30 ERA) are the probable starters.

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