CHICAGO -- The "M-V-P" chants that Javier Baez hears at Wrigley Field this season are only getting louder.But even after the Cubs' star second baseman hit his career-high 24th home run and drove in his 86th run of the season with a fifth-inning double, Chicago's rally from four runs down
CHICAGO -- The "M-V-P" chants that Javier Baez hears at Wrigley Field this season are only getting louder.
But even after the Cubs' star second baseman hit his career-high 24th home run and drove in his 86th run of the season with a fifth-inning double, Chicago's rally from four runs down came up short in a 10-6 loss to the Padres on Sunday.
Baez's solo blast in the third inning got the Cubs on the board, but not until after the Padres had tagged struggling starter Jonathan Lester for four runs. After starting the season 12-2, Chicago's ace has gone 0-2 with an 8.53 ERA over his past four starts.
"It's a Wrigley day, and you've got to deal with it. … It didn't seem to affect their guy too much, but at the end of the day, I have to do a better job of keeping our team close enough to strike and minimize some damage," Lester said. "I wasn't able to do that."
Despite Lester's rough outing (five runs, eight hits over five innings), the Cubs took him off the hook. Baez's RBI double pulled them to within 5-3 in the fifth before Chicago drew even in the seventh inning with a pair of runs. Albert Almora Jr. and Anthony Rizzo -- who entered the game in the seventh as a pinch-hitter -- delivered RBI singles to tie the game.
At that point, the comeback Cubs appeared to be in business before the Padres jumped on Chicago's bullpen late.
"We just have to come back and we have to do the simple things," Baez said. "We tried to win this series, but this series was tough. [The Padres] did their homework, and they just got us today. We've got to compete this next series [against the Royals]."
C.J. Edwards allowed a two-out walk in the eighth inning, which set up Cory Spangenberg's go-ahead double that gave San Diego a one-run lead. Randy Rosario allowed a two-run homer to Hunter Renfroe in the ninth inning, when the Padres scored four times to break the game open.
Benjamin Zobrist, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning, led off the ninth inning with a home run off the video board in right field before San Diego reliever Kirby Yates closed out the victory with back-to-back strikeouts. Rizzo and manager Joe Maddon took exception to home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez's call on Yates' final pitch, a called strike three with a runner on third, the wind blowing out and dangerous hitters waiting.
"This team is never out of it. We've shown that time and time again," Rizzo said. "It just makes it even more frustrating that a game could be called on that bad of a pitch."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With two outs in the ninth inning, the Cubs trailing 10-6 and a runner on third base, Rizzo faced a 3-2 count. Yates' next offering was off the plate, but Hernandez called it a strike, ending the game. Rizzo immediately turned to Hernandez to voice his displeasure and then followed him down the first-base line, where the conversation continued.
Maddon also joined the conversation and characterized it as an "egregiously bad call."
"That call is unacceptable," said Rizzo, who said Hernandez told him to look at the pitch on video after the game. "That can't happen. It can't happen in the Major Leagues, at Wrigley Field, at any field."
HE SAID IT
"There's no questioning the fight, the esprit de corps, the fight -- it's all wonderful, everything's good. But I'm kind of a fundamentalist, and I just want to make sure we are staying aware of [the fundamentals]." -- Maddon
Left-hander Cole Hamels will make his second Cubs start on Monday at Kauffman Stadium after he was acquired from the Rangers on July 27. Hamels allowed one unearned run on three hits and struck out nine over five innings in his Cubs debut on Wednesday in Pittsburgh. He will face the Royals' Jakob Junis in the first game of a three-game series, which begins at 7:15 p.m. CT.
Jeff Arnold is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago.