Cubs lose; Baez benched after mental lapse on bases
The Cubs slumps continued Monday, both at the plate and in the win column. The 4-0 loss to Cleveland at Wrigley Field was their sixth in the last eight games.
But most of the talk when it ended was about the decision by Cubs manager David Ross to bench Javy Baez in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Baez apparently lost track of how many outs there were and got doubled off first base after an Anthony Rizzo fly out to left. When the next inning began, Sergio Alcantara was at short and Baez was out of the game.
"We've just got to make sure we're focused and locked in during the games," Ross said. "Sometimes our frustrations can distract us a little bit. We had a good conversation and I think that's behind us. Javy's really important to this team.
"He's a leader on this team and sets a good example every time he's on the field and one of the guys I rely on to set a good example for all these guys. I feel highly of him and his skill set. I think it's just a little bit of lapse of concentration and we talked about it and that's behind us."
Baez was calm when he talked about the situation with reporters on a postgame Zoom call.
"I was just surprised," he said. "Obviously, I never want to be out of the lineup. I just respect his decision. He told me why it happened and I just say, 'OK, it's your decision.'"
Baez got to first when he beat out a relay throw on a potential double play ball. But the force at second was the first out of the inning.
"I honestly lost the outs," he said. "I had the whole time that it was like two outs and that's obviously what happened. There was only one out, Tony flew out to left field. I ran like there were two outs, it wasn't like I was doing something I wasn't supposed to do.
"I just respect his decision. I couldn't go against him. I blame it on myself. I lost the count of the outs. We talked about it, we're on the same page and I'll be there tomorrow to help the team."
Ross expanded on his respect for Baez and emphasized there was nothing that built up to this decision, where he felt he needed to set an example.
"I think it's just when you see somebody that might be a little distracted, you try to get somebody else in there that's maybe focused and give that person a break, maybe they're just grinding a little bit mentally and not all the way there," Ross said. "You try to give them the rest of the day and come back tomorrow refreshed and ready to go.
"I made a move last year with a different player (Kyle Schwarber) that I didn't feel like was fully engaged at a moment. I think there's more that led to that decision maybe a little bit that you guys don't know about. But I think yes, if circumstances were the same, I'm not trying to set an example of Javy ever.
"That guy plays his butt off and brings it 99.9% of the time. It's not about setting an example for a star player that's a big part of this team. That's not it. It's just let's get somebody in there that's fresh and let him regroup and he'll be better for it tomorrow. We'll all be better for it."
Asked if there is anything else going on that might have left him distracted, Baez said no. He has been struggling with some injuries this season -- thumb, back and hamstring -- but might have made the team's best defensive play of the season on Sunday against Miami, diving to his right to snag a line shot, then getting a force out at second.
"No, nothing at all. I'm perfectly fine," Baez said. "Like I said, he saw one thing, I saw another thing. He just took me out of the game. There are no hard feelings right now. We talked right after the game, we are on the same page right now. "Obviously, Serge was not completely ready, which I didn't like. But you know, things happen. Things happen between brothers, teammates and managers. It happens. We obviously try to be on the same page and help the team as much as we can."
Ross almost always refuses to criticize one of his players when speaking to reporters, so this move did seem a little out of character for him.
"I did not feel good taking Javy out of the game," Ross said. "I never feel comfortable doing that at all. That's a pit in my stomach and it was in my stomach the entire game."
Adbert Alzolay returned Monday from a short stint on the injured list with a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand. Alzolay seemed sharp for the most part, but gave up home runs to Bobby Bradley and Josh Naylor to account for 3 runs.
It was a cool night with the wind blowing in hard, not conducive at all to home runs, but Alzolay has now given up 12 on the season in 12 starts.
The Cubs had 6 hits and 4 walks, but went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and recorded double plays three different ways. They also struck out 12 times -- including four by Patrick Wisdom and three by Joc Pederson. Kris Bryant went hitless with 2 walks and is now 2 for his last 31 at the plate.
Cleveland starter Aaron Civale left the game with a finger injury with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and a 3-2 count on the batter, Eric Sogard. Bryan Shaw came on in relief and got Sogard on a ground out to end the inning.
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