Chicago Cubs' Baez comes out swinging despite thumb injury

The week's second surprise return from injury didn't lead to victory for the Chicago Cubs.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and Kris Bryant on first base, Javier Baez stepped out to pinch hit. It was Baez' first plate appearance since suffering a hairline fracture of his right thumb Sept. 1. He did pinch run and score a run Thursday.

Baez struck out swinging on the third pitch from St. Louis closer Carlos Martinez.

"It was hard, especially with him out there throwing 100," Baez said. "It's tough, but you've got to give it a try and try something for the team."

Before the game, manager Joe Maddon said Baez tested his thumb in the batting cage Friday and it was determined he wasn't quite ready. On Thursday, Anthony Rizzo made a surprise return to the lineup less than a week after suffering a nasty ankle sprain.

Baez said catching the ball is more painful than swinging a bat but predicted he will be ready for a full return Tuesday in Pittsburgh.

"After the day off, I'm probably going to be out there," Baez said. "I've been catching the ball. It's feeling less than 50 percent. I said it when it happened, I was worried about catching the ball more than hitting, and that's how it is. It really bothers me.

"I've been getting treatment every day and doing the things I can do, like hit off the tee. I've been feeling good, it's still bothering me a little bit, but I would do anything to help my team."

Rizzo keeps running:

Since making a quick return from a sprained right ankle, Anthony Rizzo has gone 5-for-10 at the plate. He went 3-for-5 Saturday against the Cardinals.

On a second-inning gapper to the wall, Rizzo plodded around first base and slid into second, barely getting there in time for a double. He was slow to get off the ground, but he eventually played the full game for the first time since his return.

"I tried sliding as light as I can, right?" Rizzo said. "The ankle feels really good. A few days ago, I wasn't walking. A couple days ago, I'm limping. Every day it's a miracle how good I feel."

The Cubs will need a few more miracles to reach the postseason for the fifth straight year, but as Rizzo said, all they can do is show up Sunday and try again.

"It doesn't matter how you lose this time of year. It stinks," he said. "A loss is a loss, especially with seven games left."

WGN takes a bow:

The Cubs commemorated the final home broadcast on WGN before the team-owned Marquee network debuts next season. There was a pregame video, and the Cubs presented a No. 9 scoreboard tile to longtime executive producer Bob Vorwald. Vorwald also led the seventh-inning stretch, which essentially was a video of WGN employees singing, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

WGN televised its first Cubs game in 1948 and for decades was the team's exclusive local outlet.

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