Javier Baez strikeout helps Cubs walk off to victory over Rays

Javier Baez strikeout helps Cubs walk off to victory over Rays
August 10, 2014, 5:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

Even when Javier Baez strikes out, he helps the Cubs win.

After Ryan Sweeney singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt to lead off the 12th inning of Sunday's game, the 21-year-old uber-prospect swung and missed at a ball in the dirt and as the ball skipped to the backstop, Baez trotted to first while Sweeney advanced to third.

The next batter, Anthony Rizzo, drove a ball to the right-field wall, bringing home Sweeney with the game-winning run as the Cubs took the series finale with the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-2 in front of 33,039 fans at Wrigley Field.

"We bounced back - once they scored, we scored. And we scored last," Rizzo said. "It was a good team win."

"Our guys kept grinding it out and fortunately for us, we outlasted them today," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.

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The Cubs set a franchise record with 44 strikeouts in the weekend series with the Rays, eclipsing the previous high of 43 in a three-game stretch.

Baez had nine of those himself - four Friday, three Saturday and two Sunday (including the dropped-third in the 12th) - but did have four hits in the series. He collected two singles Sunday, including a two-out RBI hit in the fifth to bring home the Cubs' first run.

Even though he still hasn't drawn a walk, Baez did work the count Sunday, seeing 26 pitches through his six at-bats.

"I wouldn't categorize it as seeing more pitches as much as maybe staying more focused in his particular zone and thereby seeing more pitches," Renteria said. "He was more conscientious. I think he was that way a little bit [Saturday], too.

"I think it will get to the point where there is a happy medium. He's trying to discover and find that set that will work for him. He's gonna have time to work it out."

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Rizzo credited the Rays pitching staff - and the Cubs' unfamiliarity with them - as a big reason for the high strikeout totals.

How will Cubs hitting coach Bill Mueller sum up the lineup's production over the weekend?

"He's gonna tell us that they were great at-bats and great swings. I try to get something negative out of him and I can't," Rizzo deadpanned. "I feel like that's why he's so great is because even if he does see something, he knows how mental this game is. He'll tell you you look great and to just keep battling."

Renteria wasn't too concerned about the number of strikeouts, focusing instead on the type of whiffs.

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"If it's chasing, if it's swinging at bad pitches, you address that," Renteria said. "If it's guys that are really just staying within their zone, you'll take a pitch every now and then that you might think is borderline, but sometimes you gotta tip your hat to the pitcher, too. If he paints one on the black and you walk away, there's nothing you can do.

"Putting the ball in play, fighting, those are all things that guys will continue to develop as hitters. You have to look at how the strikeouts are coming and then address it."