Walk-off HBP ends Cubs' wild win vs. Indians

September 16th, 2020

CHICAGO -- In the hours leading up to Tuesday's game against Cleveland, Cubs first baseman approached . Rizzo wanted to get a few members of Chicago's core group together for a discussion with fewer than two weeks left until the postseason.

The concept was familiar: Put the team ahead of personal statistics. With much of the Cubs' leadership going through uncharacteristic struggles in the batter's box, it was as good a time as any to come together and refocus to make sure they shared a collective mindset.

"We were just talking about being us," Báez said after the Cubs' 6-5 walk-off win at Wrigley Field. "And trying to make adjustments for the team, not for our numbers. That's what we did today."

The decisive moment in the victory over the Tribe came via a bases-loaded, hit-by-pitch of Cameron Maybin by reliever Nick Wittgren. There were plenty of smaller moments that paved the way for that errant, but decisive pitch. Chicago displayed sound defense, some savvy baserunning and the kind of grinding plate appearances that have been the goal all season.

It certainly was not a victory without flaws -- be it a game-tying homer from Francisco Lindor off Jeremy Jeffress in the ninth, or a potentially costly caught-stealing by Ian Happ in the seventh -- but all that mattered in the end was that trip to the win column.

That was the message expressed by starting pitcher .

"I was terrible today. I didn't have anything. Absolutely nothing," said Darvish, who was charged with three runs over seven innings in a no-decision. "But, we won. That's what we all needed. That's why I'm happy now."

The pregame meeting makes sense when peering at the numbers.

Báez, who was dropped to sixth in the order by manager David Ross on Tuesday, is batting .206 with a .623 OPS and a 62 wRC+. Kris Bryant (.607 OPS and 66 wRC+), Kyle Schwarber (.734 OPS and 97 wRC+) and Rizzo (.741 OPS and 99 wRC+) are also performing far below expectations.

The Cubs have benefited from Happ (.957 OPS and 152 wRC+) and (.929 OPS and 147 wRC+) having strong seasons, helping to buy time for the core group to get back on track. Bryant, for example, said he recently went over past seasons to find other subpar stretches to remind himself that he has come out on the other side of the slumps just fine.

"I just have fallen back on past failures and past successes," Bryant said, "to kind of get my mind in the right spot. And, hey, I've been through this before. I've gotten through this, and I'm a really good baseball player."

In Tuesday's win, Bryant and Rizzo were working well out of the Nos. 2-3 slots once again.

Bryant delivered an RBI single in the fifth and scored on a double by Rizzo. That marked the first time this season that Rizzo has knocked in Bryant in a game. Bryant then drew a walk in the seventh, when he later scored on a sacrifice fly by Willson Contreras. Bryant walked in the ninth and then scored the game's winning run.

"We're going to need these guys to be who we expect them to be," Ross said. "And I saw a lot of that tonight."

Báez launched a homer in the second inning, sending a Carlos Carrasco pitch a projected 450 feet to center. In the eighth, the dynamic shortstop stole second base, and then sprinted the extra 180 feet to score when catcher Sandy Leon's throw sailed errantly into center field.

That run gave the Cubs a 5-3 lead, proving critical in light of Lindor's late blast.

"When Javy gets on," Ross said, "he can definitely cause chaos."

Another critical moment arrived in the third, when Bryant made a throwing error that led to a Cleveland run. Later in the frame, Heyward picked Bryant up with a pinpoint throw to catcher Victor Caratini.

Lindor was on third with one out, when José Ramírez sent a Darvish pitch to right field. Lindor tagged and hustled home, but Heyward came up firing to the plate, cutting down the Tribe shortstop with a 92.3 mph throw, per Statcast.

"That was huge," Bryant said.

It was another example of a play that carried more weight for the win than for anyone's statistics. Like Báez, Bryant emphasized how important it is to maintain a team-wide focus on that aspect, rather than on any metrics that might be on display on the scoreboard.

"When we all look back on this season," Bryant said, "it's not going to be about your numbers, it's going to be about how we came together as a group and got through something that was a crazy time, a crazy time that we're living in. I am super proud of all my teammates."

Báez also reminded everyone that everyone's statistics reset to zero come October.

"When it comes to the playoffs, numbers go away," he said. "We're trying to get these guys hot. I'm trying to get hot for the playoffs. I'm trying to be that guy for the team. And I'm sure there are a few players that are trying the same thing."