CHICAGO -- Javier Báez strolled out of the batter's box, watching the baseball soar and casually letting go of his bat after taking six steps. The Wrigley faithful roared, soaking up the moment along with the Cubs star.
Expect more raucous reactions from the fans who flock to the corner of Clark and Addison over the next six days. Chicago's 8-3 win over the D-backs on Friday opened the last homestand leading up to the July 30 Trade Deadline.
No one knows how many moments like Báez's first-inning blast remain for the core players who blossomed into stars here.
"With the uncertainty," Cubs manager David Ross said, "I would take every moment and appreciate the things that I think sometimes we all -- not just players -- I think we all take for granted."
Now, they are possibly giving the home fans a final chance to appreciate all they have accomplished, even if the desired dynasty did not develop. That trio is poised for free agency next offseason, making each cornerstone a commodity in the coming days.
“I'm OK with all the guys staying on the team,” Ross quipped with a laugh before the game. “I'm really OK with that, to be honest with you.”
There are Cubs fans who feel the same way, to be sure, as evidenced by a mini Bryant fan club that emerged on Friday. Whenever he moved into the on-deck circle, a group of more than a dozen supporters in the seats just over the short brick wall behind him stood, turned around, and revealed they all were donning his jersey.
In the first inning, the three fan favorites opened this last 'stand with a show.
Bryant, who was out of the starting lineup for the previous two games due to tired legs, got things rolling by drawing a six-pitch, one-out walk against D-backs righty Zac Gallen. Rizzo was then hit by a pitch, upping his franchise record to 165 career bruisings.
That set the stage for Báez, who attacked a first-pitch slider at the bottom of the zone, ripping it to left and into the bleacher seats for a three-run homer. That quick strike gave Zach Davies (another trade candidate) an early lead that he used to his advantage.
“Getting back home, getting the crowd into it, it's nice to be back home,” Ross said. “It's nice to get the lead. Zach kind of settled in there as the game kind of went on.”
Davies -- one of a dozen-plus Cubs who could be free agents this coming winter -- racked up a season-high eight strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings with scouts in the stands. The two runs charged to the righty came after he exited.
Over his past 15 turns for the Cubs, Davies has logged a 3.12 ERA, lowering his season ERA to 4.30 from 9.47 in that span of nearly three months. The righty understands the landscape, too: The Cubs reside in fourth place in the National League Central, and Davies presents an affordable ($8.63 million salary) trade chip for any teams looking for rotation help.
“I've been traded three times before,” Davies said. “I know it's there. I'm not naive about it. But at the same time, I just want to win ballgames.”
Led by their core, the Cubs flew the “W” flag for the sixth time in 12 games. Rizzo added a single in the third and later rumbled home on a wild pitch to help spark a three-run inning. Bryant finished with a pair of walks. Báez crossed home twice and added a double later in his day.
For all the rumors, reports and speculation flying, Davies held on to hope that the Cubs could still try to alter the front office’s course.
“Things could change. It could go a different direction,” he said. “You never know. It can change on a dime, and I think everybody in the clubhouse is prepared to go out there and win tomorrow, win the next day and just play positive.”
In the meantime, the fans were savoring a welcomed win, as the clock keeps ticking toward an important Deadline.
“There's a definite energy and appreciation for being home,” Ross said.