CHICAGO -- Javier Báez missed the packed houses. He craved the curtain calls. All last summer, while playing in an empty Wrigley Field, the Cubs’ shortstop struggled to adjust to putting on a show with no fans.
In a 7-2 win over the Padres on Monday afternoon, El Mago captivated his audience with a pair of home runs. And Báez answered their chants of his name, jogging up the dugout steps and pointing skyward as they roared in delight.
"It feels great," Báez said. "It feels like a playoff game, you know?"
And if the Cubs want to play in October, they will need more days like this.
"We knew we had a good team starting the season," Cubs manager David Ross said. "When you get to prove your beliefs and have a really good month like we just had, it's always encouraging. But, we've got a long way to go as well."
Here was the formula for Monday's win:
1. Báez, Bryant power the offense
For a brief moment, it looked as though Padres center fielder Jurickson Profar had a chance to snare a sinking liner off Bryant's bat in the third inning. Profar's diving attempt came up short, the ball skipped to the base of the bricks and ivy and Bryant motored around the bases with a triple.
That set the stage for Báez's first blast.
"As soon as I hit it," he said, "I knew I hit it really good."
Báez pounded a full-count changeup from Chris Paddack to center, where the baseball nearly hit the camera well above the batter's backdrop. Statcast projected the blast at 455 feet, making it the fourth-longest shot of the shortstop's career.
Bryant -- playing like an MVP candidate again this season -- had already upped his hitting streak to 13 games. In his next at-bat, Bryant ended Paddack's day with a two-run homer to right, where it obliterated a drink in the hand of one fan in the bleachers.
Báez and Bryant shared the team lead in homers until the seventh, when the shortstop added a solo shot off Nabil Crismatt that gave him 13 on the season.
2. Stewart steps up
Stewart was at breakfast with his wife and son on Sunday morning when Triple-A Iowa manager Marty Pevey buzzed the pitcher's phone. It was the call to the big leagues.
"It's just a surreal moment," Stewart said.
That sudden promotion came after Cubs starter Trevor Williams had an emergency appendectomy early Sunday morning. Chicago needed a starter for Monday's series opener against the star-studded Padres lineup.
"That's just the nature of the beast in Triple-A," Stewart said. "You just never really know when your phone's going to ring. So, you really have to treat every day like you're preparing to play in the big leagues the following day."
Stewart was officially recalled on Monday morning, when Williams became the Cubs' 12th player now on the IL. In his first MLB start since May 11, 2019, Stewart limited San Diego to one unearned run over five innings, leaning heavily on his four-seamer (29 pitches) and sinker (28 pitches) to help generate nine outs via grounder (including two double plays).
"He was great. He attacked the zone," Ross said. "The two-seamer was working nicely. A ton of ground balls on a windy day really helped out. It is a really good lineup and deep. Some power throughout."
3. Wisdom keeps hitting
During the recent rash of injury setbacks, Wisdom was called up from Iowa to help out at third base. That would allow Bryant to keep filling in for Chicago's depleted outfield.
"We've got a lot of confidence in Patrick. He's done a nice job," said Ross, who noted that Wisdom also had a cameo late in the 2020 season with the Cubs.
In Monday's win, the 29-year-old Wisdom enjoyed his first career multihomer game, slugging a first-pitch shot off Paddack in the fourth and a first-pitch blast off Tim Hill in the sixth. He has three homers in his first seven games with the Cubs this year.
"It's definitely been a long one and a tough one," Wisdom said of his path back to the big leagues. "But hey, that makes me stronger in the end, and I'm thankful for it. I'm happy to be part of this team right now. This is incredible."
It is the type of game that can help a player like Wisdom swiftly become a cult hero for fans. It is also the type of performance a team like the Cubs needs right now to keep on a possible postseason pace.
And like Báez said, the Friendly Confines had that feel on Monday.
"How does Javy say it? 'Large,' right?" Wisdom said. "Man, that place was rocking today. It was awesome to hear. Having the crowd noise and the cheers, it's awesome to play in front of."