Baez's blast rallies Cubs past Mets, 5-3

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Javier Baez hit a 3-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday to rally the Cubs to a 5-3 victory over the New York Mets at Wrigley Field.

    Javier Baez hit a 3-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning Sunday to rally the Cubs to a 5-3 victory over the New York Mets at Wrigley Field. Associated Press

  • Cubs' Jason Heyward (22) high fives Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber (12) after he scores during the second inning Sunday.

    Cubs' Jason Heyward (22) high fives Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber (12) after he scores during the second inning Sunday. Associated Press

  • Cubs' Jason Heyward (22) scores during the second inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets Sunday, June 23, 2019, in Chicago.

    Cubs' Jason Heyward (22) scores during the second inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets Sunday, June 23, 2019, in Chicago. Associated Press

  • Cubs starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) delivers during the first inning. Hamels battled to keep the Cubs in it. He worked 7 innings for his fifth quality start in a row (1.00 ERA in that span). He also kept his pitch count down early on a humid day.

    Cubs starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) delivers during the first inning. Hamels battled to keep the Cubs in it. He worked 7 innings for his fifth quality start in a row (1.00 ERA in that span). He also kept his pitch count down early on a humid day. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 6/23/2019 9:30 PM

Javier Baez's 100th career home run could not have come at a better time, for him or the Chicago Cubs.

On the brink of another frustrating loss to the New York Mets, Baez took it right down to the limit Sunday.

 

Down in the count 0-2, he went opposite field to right in the bottom of the eighth against reliever Seth Lugo for a 3-run homer that rallied the Cubs to a 5-3 victory.

"Feels great," said Baez, who has 19 homers this season. "That's a lot of homers for me. Actually I didn't know it until I got to the dugout and everybody started congratulating me. Pretty excited. I thought it was going to be a little bit later on in my career. I really didn't pay attention to that. Really happy that I got to it and hopefully I can keep it going."

Baez joins Ernie Banks and Shawon Dunston as the only Cubs shortstops with a minimum of 50 games played at short to reach 100 homers with the Cubs.

Until Baez hit his, it had been a frustrating day and a frustrating homestand for the Cubs. They split a pair earlier with the White Sox and were on the brink of losing three of four to the Mets.

On top of it, Baez struck out his first two times up against Jacob deGrom, making him 3-for-18 on the homestand.

But his homer rescued another good start by pitcher Cole Hamels and set the table for Pedro Strop to earn his ninth save.

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"That was big because he was so frustrated," Strop said. "It's not the first time it happened. When I was walking to the pen, I saw that he was frustrated after that strikeout. He said, 'Oh, he (deGrom) is not throwing us any fastballs, just sliders.' I was like, 'Bro, it's good that you know that. Go with another plan. Do your thing. You're going to win this ballgame.'"

Manager Joe Maddon always preaches opposite field, especially when his batters are down in the count.

"We've seen it before, right?" said Maddon, whose team improved to 42-35 to hold on to first place in the National League Central. "I love when he's in that (right-center) gap. I think he should adopt the right-center-field gap. A lot of our guys should, if they're right-handed. Good at-bat again. Couple good at-bats actually for him."

The early part of the game was a nice duel between Hamels and deGrom. Hamels singled home the game's first run in the second inning. The Mets tied it in the fourth on Pete Alonso's leadoff homer. It was Alonso's 27th of the season already.

Tomas Nido homered and deGrom had an RBI single in the fifth to put the Mets up 3-1 before Anthony Rizzo's RBI single gave the Cubs a run in the bottom half.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In the eighth, Kyle Schwarber singled, and after Kris Bryant field out, Rizzo walked, setting up Baez.

But Hamels battled to keep the Cubs in it. He worked 7 innings for his fifth quality start in a row (1.00 ERA in that span). He also kept his pitch count down early on a humid day.

But he, too, marveled at Baez.

"He's the type of player, you can never count him out," Hamels said. "He always wants to make a difference. As much as he wants to make a difference in the batter's box, he definitely makes his presence known on the field with all the plays he does.

"It's just pretty spectacular to have him as a teammate and have that guy in the lineup."

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