CHICAGO -- Javier Baez provided the pop when needed while Tyler Chatwood did exactly what the Cubs didn't want him to do.
Baez smacked a tiebreaking three-run homer in the fourth inning and Albert Almora Jr. had three hits, including an RBI double, to lift the Cubs to an 8-3 victory and a series win over the Giants on Sunday night at Wrigley Field. Baez now leads the National League with 42 RBIs.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon saw Baez hitting the ball to the opposite field during batting practice and yelled "derecho" from the dugout before the infielder's at-bat. That means "right" in Spanish, and it went the right direction.
"In batting practice I pulled one ball," Baez said. "I felt great after that whole batting practice. It was to the right side. I was just trying to get my timing down and see the ball through the sun. When I do that, I see the ball really well."
Said Maddon: "If he can stay with that mentality all the time, there's no telling how good he can be. It slows him down, he's going to make better decisions."
Now, the Cubs just have to get Chatwood on the right track. The right-hander was pitching on normal rest, subbing for Yu Darvish, who is on the disabled list with right triceps tendinitis and will have an MRI exam on Tuesday. In Spring Training, Maddon said he felt the Cubs rotation was the best since he arrived in 2015. The pitchers haven't matched the hype.
"They just need to get a couple good ones in a row," Maddon said of his starters. "Two of them are brand new, in regards to Chatwood and Yu. They're new -- new environment, new teammates, new city, new ballpark, new fan base, whatever. You've got to get their feet on the ground."
Chatwood lasted 2 2/3 innings for the second straight start, and has now walked more batters (45) than he's struck out (44) over 48 1/3 total innings. He's issued at least five walks in seven of his 10 starts, the most by a Cubs pitcher since Carlos Zambrano did so in eight games in 2006.
"We have work to do," Maddon said. "I really believe in this fellow, and his stuff is that good. We just have to get a more stable routine that permits him to control himself when he gets out there. We need to get him more routine oriented, that he has an anchor to hold onto when the ball's not going where he wants it to.
"When he's out on the mound, he's trying so hard to throw a strike and not to walk somebody, and that's the issue. We've got to get him beyond that. If that's your focus, sure enough, you're going to walk somebody. We've got to get beyond that."
Maddon said the remedy is "somewhat simple, but complicated because you have to go out and do it." Chatwood knows that.
"It's a matter of clicking, and once I feel like I'm clicking, then there's nothing to worry about except executing pitches," Chatwood said. "It's a grind. You're going to hit points in the season, and it just so happens mine is now. It's magnified because I'm giving up walks."
It was an ugly first inning for both starters. Chatwood walked two, survived an error, and served up a two-out RBI infield single to Pablo Sandoval and a two-run single to Mac Williamson. The Cubs tied the game at 3 in their half against Ty Blach on an RBI double by Kristopher Bryant and run-scoring singles by Anthony Rizzo, whose knock deflected off second-base umpire Cory Blaser, and Addison Russell.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Javy being Javy:Randy Rosario, who took over for Chatwood, walked to lead off the fourth in his first Major League plate appearance and reached third on Almora's double, which chased Blach. Baez greeted Pierce Johnson with his 13th homer of the season to go ahead, 6-3.
Baez is trying to hit the ball to the opposite field.
"It's my mind," he said. "Sometimes I get too big [with his swing] because sometimes I put it in my head that he's going to throw me the pitch that I want. Sometimes I say, '200 percent, it's going to be the pitch,' so I'm swinging and I can't stop my swing because of the power I go through the ball.
"Once I control that and I stay behind the ball, I think I can do a lot of damage."
The near cycle: The Cubs missed hitting for the cycle in the fifth by a home run. With two out, Jason Heyward tripled and scored on pinch-hitter Thomas La Stella's single, who then tallied on Almora's double to open an 8-3 lead.
Willson Contreras also hit a triple in the sixth, and the Cubs now lead the Majors with 19 for the season.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Almora had three hits, including an RBI double, and he showed off his glovework in the sixth when he robbed Evan Longoria of a potential hit with a running catch in center field. According to Statcast™, it was a three-star catch with a 66 percent catch probability.
"Defensively, he's playing as well as he possibly can," Maddon said.
It was a special night for Almora.
"I had a little bit of extra help today," Almora said. "Today [would have been] my grandfather's birthday, and he passed away in 2011. My mom told me, 'He's going to be with you tonight.' He's always with me, but tonight he helped me a little bit more."
HE SAID IT
"To be honest, I'm just trying to stay away from [stats]. Every time I play with my stats, I get in a slump because I'm trying too much. It feels great. I'm the leader now, but it's still a long season. We will see how numbers are in September and October." -- Baez, after being told he leads NL in RBIs
Mike Montgomery will make his first start of the season on Monday at 12:35 p.m. CT when the Cubs open a three-game series against the Pirates at PNC Park. Montgomery, who will square off against Pittsburgh's Chad Kuhl, is subbing for Chatwood, who filled in for Darvish (right triceps tendinitis) on Sunday night. Montgomery has twice gone three innings this season. His last start was the 2017 regular-season finale, Oct. 1 against the Reds.