WASHINGTON -- A day after vowing that the Cubs would prevail in their bid to win the National League Central, Javier Baez did his part on Thursday afternoon to make good on his promise.Baez drove in the go-ahead run on a bunt single up the first-base line, one of three
WASHINGTON -- A day after vowing that the Cubs would prevail in their bid to win the National League Central, Javier Baez did his part on Thursday afternoon to make good on his promise.
Baez drove in the go-ahead run on a bunt single up the first-base line, one of three hits and three RBIs to help the Cubs to a 4-3, 10-inning victory in a crucial makeup game against the Nationals at Nationals Park.
Baez also blasted his 31st home run and doubled in a run for the first-place Cubs, who moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the idle Brewers. Earlier this week, Milwaukee took two of three from Chicago at Wrigley Field, prompting Baez to promise Wednesday night that no one would beat his team if they played to their level.
"I think it got us right back on track," Baez said of Thursday's win. "I think we're going to take off soon, and hopefully this is the moment right now."
Baez's sixth-inning homer off Jimmy Cordero ensured his first multi-hit game since Sept. 2, before his bunt single off Sean Doolittle (3-3) ensured the Cubs a split of four games at Nationals Park. The first three were played last week before rain washed out Sunday's finale and forced the Cubs to return to Washington in the middle of a scheduled six-game homestand.
• Rizzo wore his full uniform on the Cubs' team plane
"We were going to make the most of [this trip]," said Kristopher Bryant, who scored on Baez's bunt. "A win, considering the circumstances, is pretty good for us right now."
Pedro Strop (6-1), Chicago's eighth pitcher of the encounter, went 1 2/3 scoreless innings, and Randy Rosario worked a scoreless 10th for his first career save. They were just two of the eight relievers deployed to secure the win after starter Mike Montgomery went only four-plus innings.
Currently the Cubs' closer, Strop came off limping after he attempted to beat the throw when he grounded into a double play to end the top of the 10th. He exited with a left hamstring injury.
After Bryant doubled with one out in the 10th, Daniel Murphy's single on a ball misplayed by Nationals second baseman Wilmer Difo put runners on the corners.
Up came Baez, and with Ryan Zimmerman charging, he pushed an airborne bunt that had just enough on it to carom off the first baseman's glove and beyond him.
"That wasn't my call, that was his call," manager Joe Maddon said. "I like that. … He's self-aware, and he saw it and he knew the kind of pitcher. He watched where Zimmerman was, and he did what he did."
Said Bryant: "We needed something to fall our way, and that was certainly the play that did."
BAEZ FLASHES LEATHER
Baez also contributed with the glove in the eighth inning, when he dug out a chopper deep in the hole at third, turned and fired a strike to first to nab Zimmerman by a half-step for the second out.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Strop said he wasn't quite running all-out on his grounder at first. But after Anthony Rendon threw home, Strop realized the relay from catcher Matt Wieters still hadn't come, and he stretched his leg to the bag as the ball arrived. That's when the injury occurred.
Maddon challenged what appeared to be a very close play on review, and the Cubs fans in attendance cheered when the replay was shown on the video board, but the call stood.
HE SAID IT
"Tomorrow? I have no idea, because all of these guys are on fumes." -- Maddon, asked who would slide into the Cubs' closer role
Cole Hamels (4-0, 1.42 ERA with Chicago) and the Reds' Matt Harvey (7-8, 4.87 ERA) square off at 7:05 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field on Friday. The series opener is Hamels' first start vs. the Reds since pitching a complete game in the Cubs' 7-1 win on Aug. 23.
Ian Quillen is a contributor to MLB.com.