Cubs collect dramatic victory in thriller versus Padres
All-Star infielder Javier Baez's two hits were very critical to the Cubs' thrilling win. (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Baker-USA TODAY Sports)

Cubs collect dramatic victory in thriller versus Padres

by - Senior Writer -

CHICAGO — Pumping his fist in celebration, Chicago Cubs reliever Pedro Strop captured the essence of his team's emotional roller coaster of a victory over the San Diego Padres on Friday afternoon. A game that featured several momentum swings and a multitude of thrilling plays on both offense and defense, the second contest of the four-game set at Wrigley Field saw the Cubs survive a late Padres surge and come away with a hard-fought 5-4 win.

Superstars Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo led the way for the Cubs on the afternoon. Going 3-4 in the leadoff spot, Rizzo hit his 16th home run of the season. As for Baez, who went 2-3 and scored twice, he tallied two of the most important hits of the game, one of which was an opposite-field bomb that put the Cubs up 1-0 in the second.

Leading off the second frame with a solo jack to right, Baez tied his career high in home runs at 23. He also increased his career-high RBI total to 84. The Cubs accrued a two-run lead in the bottom of the third when Tommy La Stella came in to score from third on a sacrifice fly by Ben Zobrist. A few innings later, La Stella scored again as a result of a Zobrist at-bat. Avoiding a tag at the plate, La Stella made a gutsy base-running decision on a fielder's choice groundout that paid off. Several members of the Padres seemed to think that La Stella had been tagged out, but San Diego had already unsuccessfully used its challenge and was therefore out of luck.

In the fourth frame, Christian Villanueva put the Padres on the scoreboard with a solo dinger off Cubs starter Jose Quintana. Other than that, Quintana was excellent in his six-inning stint on the hill, giving up just four hits and earning the win to move to 10-7. Padres starting hurler Tyson Ross, on the other hand, gave up three runs on six hits and two walks in five innings and fell to 6-9 with the loss.

Leading 3-1 after La Stella's close call at the plate, the Cubs went on to strand three runners in the inning, as Ian Happ struck out swinging with the bases loaded to end the inning. Rizzo provided Chicago with some breathing room in the seventh on a round-tripper to right field. Landing inside the netted basket just above the ivy in right, the solo blast moved Rizzo into a tie with Alfonso Soriano for 11th place on the Cubs' all-time home-run leaderboard.

Cubs reliever Steve Cishek helped the Padres start their rally by committing a costly throwing error in the eighth. After entering the game with runners on first and second and no outs, Cishek gunned an errant throw after fielding a comebacker, which allowed Cory Spangenberg to come around from second to score. Two more pitching changes took place later in the inning, and the Cubs eventually escaped having given up just one run.

Leading 4-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Cubs were provided with what proved to be the most critical run of the game after Baez led off with his seventh triple of the season. Using his trademark swim move to avoid the tag at third base on a shot that bounced off the wall in right, Baez was plated soon afterward on a sacrifice fly to deep center by Happ.

That paved the way for the dramatic ninth inning. Entering with a save opportunity on the line, Strop nearly blew the game after allowing a leadoff single and an ensuing walk. Spangenberg followed that up with a double to left that scored a run and put men on second and third with zero outs. Strop was left in the game, though, and was able to escape after a series of dramatic at-bats.

Travis Jankowski of the Padres engaged in a lengthy battle with Strop that culminated in a groundout to first base that brought a run across. Then, with the tying run on third base, Cubs third baseman David Bote made one of the best plays of his young career by fielding a chopper off the bat of Manuel Margot and quickly firing home for a tag out at the plate.

In the next at-bat, which proved to be the final at-bat, Strop struck out Austin Hedges after falling behind 2-0. After Hedges fouled off two straight pitches to make the count 2-2, Strop threw a slider low and away, and Hedges swung at it and missed. Once he secured the game-ending strikeout for his sixth save, Strop let his emotions fly with several fervent air punches and a passionate salute to Bote, whose expert defensive play in the ninth saved the game for the Cubs.

With the 5-4 win, the Cubs improved to 63-46 while dropping the Padres to 43-69. Chicago tallied 10 hits, the Padres tallied eight hits and both clubs tallied two walks in an evenly-matched contest. Serving as one of the Cubs' most well-rounded wins of the season, the triumph featured adept base running and defensive tenacity from the North Siders that culminated in the Cubs staying strong in the face of adversity and the "W" flag waving in the wind at the Friendly Confines.

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