Cubs deal with crazy, walk away with win

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Cubs deal with crazy, walk away with win

By Paul LaTour
CSNChicago.com Contributor

On a crazy Sunday across major league baseball, the Cubs did their part in adding to it.

David DeJesus drove in the winning run with a bases-loaded walk in the 11th inning as the Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 in the rubber match of a three-game series against one of the National Leagues top teams.

A walk-off walk, its kind of weird, DeJesus said. I didnt know what to do, just trot on over to first base. But that was a good win for us. This could be a momentum builder for us.

The crazy thing for DeJesus was that he saw not one, but two ball fours against Dodgers right-hander Jamey Wright (1-2). Unlike the first, DeJesus was able to hold up on the second one to score Darwin Barney.

I was going to be aggressive on the 3-1 pitch and drive the ball the opposite way, DeJesus said of whiffing on what appeared to be ball four. At 3-2 I wanted to lock back in. I was able to see it early and know it was a ball.

DeJesus heroics came after he was thrown out at the plate trying to score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a Tony Campana double. It was only the second hit of the game for the Cubs with runners in scoring position after numerous chances throughout. They finished 2 for 15 in that category.

Need more crazy? The Cubs were so depleted on the bench from a virus running rampant through the clubhouse they needed Ian Stewart to pinch-hit in the ninth after he was kept out of the starting lineup because of said virus.

Stewart came through with a single and eventually scored the tying run on Campanas double despite being so sick he couldnt see straight.

Stewart was about as sick as you could be, manager Dale Sveum said. And he came up with a huge hit. That was an interesting game -- it took us almost all 25 guys to do it, let alone (needing) the sick guys coming off the couch.

Wait, theres more.

Emergency starter Travis Wood threw six innings despite allowing all three runs and all four hits against him in the first three innings. He retired the final 11 batters he faced after a two-run home run to Juan Rivera that gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.

Wood threw 100 pitches, but only 28 after needing 72 to get through those initial three frames. Oh, and for good measure, he collected a pair of hits to tie his career high. That included a third-inning double that led him to eventually score on a two-run single by Starlin Castro -- the Cubs only other hit with runners in scoring position.

My pitches really started working toward the end of the (third) inning, said Wood, who started in place of virus-victim Matt Garza. I didnt feel like I was nervous or anything, but I dont know, I probably was and didnt know it.

The Cubs were able to load the bases in the 11th thanks to a little more craziness. Jeff Samardzija -- Mondays scheduled starter -- was called upon to pinch-hit after Barney doubled and Welington Castillo was intentionally walked to start the inning against Wright.

Instead of bunting as planned, Samardzija reached when he was hit by a pitch. DeJesus followed with the winning walk.

Still need more craziness? Dont forget the game started 2 hours and 41 minutes late after a delay caused by two separate thunderstorms passing through the area.

When everything was finally finished, the Cubs came away with only their second series win of the season. They did it against a team that began the day tied for the NL lead with the Washington Nationals.

Talk about crazy.

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“That’s what we’re supposed to look like,” Joe Maddon said Monday night after a 6-4 loss where the San Francisco Giants scored the first six runs and Wrigley Field got loudest for the David Ross “Dancing with the Stars” look-in on the big video board, at least until a late flurry from the Cubs.

But for a manager always looking for the silver linings, Maddon could replay Addison Russell’s diving stop to his right and strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop to take a hit away from Christian Arroyo. Or Albert Almora’s spectacular flying catch near the warning track in center field. Or Anthony Rizzo stealing another hit from Brandon Belt with a diving backhanded play near the first-base line.

The highlight reel became a reminder of how the Cubs won 103 games and the World Series last year – and made you wonder why the 2017 team hasn’t played the same consistently excellent defense with largely the same group of personnel.

“Concentration?” Jason Heyward said, quickly dismissing the theory a defensive decline could boil down to focus or effort. “No shot. No shot. It is what it is when it comes to people asking questions about last year having effects, this and that. But this is a new season.

“The standard is still high. What’s our excuse? We played later than anybody? That may buy you some time, but then what?

“The goals stay the same. We just got to find new ways to do it when you have a different team.”

FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s statistical website, framed the question this way after the Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play ever last season, an analysis that goes all the way back to 1871: “Have the Cubs Forgotten How to Field?”

Even if the Cubs don’t set records and make history, they should still be better than 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency, with 37 errors through 43 games. The Cubs have already allowed 28 unearned runs after giving up 45 all last season.

“We just got to stay on it and keep focusing and not let the miscues go to our head,” Ben Zobrist said. “We just have to keep working hard and staying focused in the field. A lot of that’s the rhythm of the game. I blame a lot of that on the early parts of the season and the weather and a lot of difficult things that we’ve been going through.

“If we’re not hitting the ball well, too, we’re a young team still, and you can carry that into the field. You don’t want to let that happen, but it’s part of the game. You got to learn to move beyond miscues and just focus on the next play.”

Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, missed two weeks with a sprained right finger and has already started nine times in center field (after doing that 21 times all last season). Zobrist has morphed back into a super-utility guy, starting 16 games at second base and 15 in two different outfield spots.

[MORE CUBS: Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?]

Maddon has tried to drill the idea of making the routine play into Javier Baez’s head, so that the uber-talented second baseman can allow his natural athleticism and instincts to take over during those dazzling moments.

The Cubs are basically hoping Kyle Schwarber keeps the ball in front of him in left and setting the bar at: Don’t crash into your center fielder. Like Schwarber and Almora, catcher Willson Contreras hasn’t played a full season in The Show yet, and the Cubs are now hoping Ian Happ can become a Zobrist-type defender all over the field.

“I’m seeing our guys playing in a lot of different places,” Heyward said. “It’s not just been penciling in every day who’s going to center field or right field or left field. We did shake things up some last year, but we did it kind of later in the season. We had guys settle in, playing every day. This year, I feel like we’re having guys in different spots.

“It’s May whatever, (but) it seems like we haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. Not that we’re procrastinating by any means, but it’s just been a lot of moving pieces.”

The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with a formula that incorporated lights-out pitching, airtight defense and just enough clutch pitching. The Cubs are now a 22-21 team trying to figure it out again.

“Defense comes and goes, just like pitching,” said Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, in part, because of his defensive versatility. “I feel like if you look at last year, it’s kind of hard to compare, just because it was so good. We spoiled everybody last year. Now we’re a complete letdown this year.”

Bryant paused and said: “Just kidding. Different years, things regress, things progress, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”