Javy Báez, David Bote lift Cubs to unlikely sweep of Dodgers

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Gordon Wittenmyer
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Báez, Bote lift Cubs to unlikely sweep of Dodgers originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

In the span of about 12 hours Tuesday, the Cubs went from the worst of times so far this season to their best day of baseball of the year.

A day that started with three players going on the injured list — including their best pitcher in April and one of their hottest hitters — ended with the unlikeliest doubleheader sweep by the Cubs in recent memory.

Facing four Cy Youngs worth of starting pitchers for the defending-champ Dodgers, the Cubs rocked Clayton Kershaw in the opener and outlasted Trevor Bauer in the nightcap — with Javy Báez and David Bote providing the extra-inning heroics in Game 2, including Bote’s one-out walkoff single to right-center for the 4-3 victory.

“Baseball’s a funny game,” said Cubs manager David Ross, whose team had lost seven if its last nine entering the day — then put Jake Arrieta (cut thumb) and Nico Hoerner (left forearm) on the IL, forcing rookie Keegan Thompson into the rotation to start Game 2.

“I’m just super proud of the fight this group has,” he said. “Huge day for us. Lot of bumps and bruises, a lot of maneuvering on the roster and guys just continuing to stay ready. … Just all-around big wins. Defending world champs, doubleheader — nice to get two in that scenario, especially when it feels like every little thing was going against us and then we come up with two wins.

“I thought tonight it started to be the character of this team.”

Whatever comes next, the big day that also included a 7-1 win over Kershaw clinched just the third series victory for a Cubs team off to its worst start in seven years.

How improbable was this sweep? How wild the 16-inning ride?

Consider:

  • They knocked three-time Cy Young winner Kershaw out with a four-run first — the shortest outing of the future Hall of Famer’s career and most runs he’d allowed in the first inning since allowing five in a 2008 start as a rookie. “Embarrassing,” Kershaw said afterward.

  • They only scored once against Bauer —the National League’s reigning Cy Young winner — but put enough pressure on him to run his pitch count to 90 and force him from his shortest start of the season one out into the fifth.

  • They won the Bauer start despite closer Craig Kimbrel’s first blown save on his first earned run allowed since August — on Max Muncy’s tying homer to right in the seventh of the scheduled seven-inning game.

  • The Dodgers scored twice in the top of the eighth, and by the time Báez stepped to the plate with a runner at third and two out in the bottom of the inning, the Cubs were 0-for-17 with men in scoring position. Báez — whose day already included an MLB fine for his part in Saturday’s bench-clearing incident and three errors in the first game — then lined a 1-0 pitch into the left-field bleachers to tie it again. “It was insane,” teammate Joc Pederson said.

  • And Bote? He was hitting .177 when he stepped in with Kris Bryant at third in the ninth and looked bad swinging through two breaking balls — before lining an opposite-field winner over the drawn-in outfield.

“Anytime you can find a way to win in those games, it’s definitely a huge thing,” said Bote, whose fielding at third might have been the Cubs’ biggest highlight until extra innings — including a backhand, one-step, 5-3 double play in the first and diving play to end the sixth with a man on.

“It’s a long season still. A long way to go,” Bote said of the Cubs’ sweep against all odds. “I don’t want to get too high and too low on either side of things. But each day I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”

To be sure, the Dodgers have had their own pile of issues since a 13-2 start — sliding to 4-12 since then with Tuesday’s sweep.

And whether the Cubs have enough pitching to sustain even a week that looks anything like Tuesday did, it was a much-needed respite and boost for a clubhouse that could be heard pulsating with music through two doors on the postgame Zoom sessions with media.

“It’s just so enjoyable to see as a team,” Báez said of the comeback in the nightcap, “because we want it so bad. Things have been going slowly for us, or up and down. But the way we have fun here, the way we compete is on another level I believe.”

It doesn’t get any easier for the Cubs Wednesday with All-Star Walker Buehler pitching for the Dodgers. Or beyond that with some already questionable areas of depth stressed by a few short-term injuries.

“It feels great to win the series,” Báez said. “But we’ll see. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. Hopefully, it keeps going our way.”

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