Late-game errors help Cubs pull off win over Padres

by - Senior Writer -
On top of the Padres' defensive mistakes, Anthony Rizzo's grand slam heavily contributed to the Cubs' victory. (Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports)
On top of the Padres' defensive mistakes, Anthony Rizzo's grand slam heavily contributed to the Cubs' victory. (Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports)

CHICAGO — On a scorching Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs (53-44) beat both the heat and the San Diego Padres (46-51) to remain hot and improve to 6-1 out of the All-Star break. In a contest that featured four errors, the two suffered by the Padres in the bottom of the eighth resulted in the North Siders pulling out a 6-5 victory in the first meeting of the season between the Cubs and the Padres. The Cubs scored three separate go-ahead runs on the day, and the final one proved to be the ultimate difference maker.

Left-hander Jon Lester started on the mound for the Cubs and was able to maintain his composure while dealing with temperatures above 90 degrees throughout his six innings on the mound. Lester gave up four runs on 12 hits but did not issue any walks and also struck out six. The Padres took an early 1-0 lead off Lester, with Hunter Renfroe hitting a sacrifice fly that drove Manuel Margot in the top of the first. Three of Lester's six punchouts were of the inning-ending variety, and a clutch strikeout concluded the top half of the opening frame.

The Padres went on to increase their lead to 3-0 when, in the top of third, Manny Machado jacked a 2-run bomb out to left-center. Anthony Rizzo responded, though, by putting the Cubs in front with a go-ahead grand slam in the bottom of the fourth. Rizzo's fourth career grand slam, the 366-foot blast to left field marked the first home run for "Big Rizz" since June 15. Rizzo now boasts 20 home runs and 65 RBI on the season.

Prior to Rizzo going yard, the top of the fourth presented the first sample of heat-induced wackiness. With one out, Padres starting pitcher Eric Lauer stroked a double to deep right. Then, Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis lined a shot that caromed off Lester's leg and into no man's land on the first-base side, resulting in an infield single for Tatis. Thankfully, Lester was able to walk the pain off, but, meanwhile, Tatis caught the Cubs sleeping and pulled a fast one.

Cubs third baseman David Bote wound up with the ball in his possession as he attempted to catch Lauer off the bag at third base. Bote insisted on keeping his glove placed on Lauer's body in an effort to sell the tagout to the third-base umpire. Tatis noticed that all of the Cubs on the infield were paying attention either to Bote or to a hobbled Lester, so he raced to second base with no threat of being gunned down. On the next play, Lauer inexplicably attempted to go home on a routine grounder and was tagged out, and the Padres ended up going scoreless in the frenetic half-inning.

Rizzo smacked his grand slam with two outs, and, in the top of the fifth, Padres catcher Francisco Mejia came through with his own pivotal 2-out hit. Mejia plated the tying run with two outs via a double to deep left. However, the back-and-forth nature of the contest carried over into the bottom of the fifth, as Javier Baez smashed an opposite-field solo shot that put the Cubs back in front. The 401-foot dinger to right served as Baez's 23rd long ball of 2019.

With the Cubs clinging to a 5-4 lead, Lester was fired up after striking Machado out swinging to end the top of the sixth and leave a runner stranded on base. A throwing error committed by Cubs catcher Martin Maldonado on the first at-bat of the inning allowed a runner to reach second base with no outs. Therefore, Lester dodged a bullet in the sixth, but Cubs reliever Pedro Strop was unable to steer clear of mistakes in the eighth. On the very first pitch of his outing, Strop lofted a fastball over the plate that Josh Naylor hammered out of the park for a 448-foot moonshot, thus tying the game at 5-5.

Strop's ill-fated pitch did not plague the Cubs for long, as the Padres endured their defensive meltdown in the bottom half of the eighth. Perhaps as an example of foreshadowing, the Cubs were on the wrong end of an embarrassing error in the top of the eighth. After catching a popup, Baez airmailed his throw back to Strop, and the amateurish mistake resulted in the baserunner on first coasting into second. Strop proceeded to tab the third out by striking out Machado on three straight pitches, making Baez's error a moot point, but the pair of Padres gaffes in the bottom of the eighth were certainly not moot.

Rizzo sparked the comedy of errors in the latter half of the eighth by hitting a 1-out single. Thereafter, Tatis attempted to throw out Rizzo at second base after fielding a grounder off the bat of Addison Russell. Unfortunately for Tatis, his errant throw sailed into the outfield, which enabled Russell and Rizzo to reach second and third, respectively. An ensuing intentional walk loaded the bases, and Bote then hit a dribbler to third, on which Rizzo was thrown out at home.

Once he caught the throw to the dish, Mejia decided to gun to first in an attempt at outing Bote, even though he had virtually no chance of making the throw in time. Bote ran past the bag before the throw even reached Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer, but the unnecessary heave became arguably the most important play of the game when Hosmer dropped it. While the ball rolled behind Hosmer, Russell took advantage of the scoring opportunity and hustled home from third, thereby giving the Cubs a 6-5 lead.

The Padres outhit the Cubs 13-7, but San Diego's woes on defense nullified San Diego's successes on offense and greatly benefited the Cubs. In the end, Hosmer's error, which was made possible by Mejia's needless throw, did the Padres in, as former Padres and current Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel finished off the action-packed duel in the top of the ninth. Kimbrel walked one batter but struck out the other three en route to locking up Chicago's 6-5 triumph.

San Diego Padres at Chicago Cubs
Jul 19, 2019 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
San Diego (46-51) 1 0 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 5 13 2
Chicago (53-44) 0 0 4 0 1 0 0 1 -
W: Pedro Strop (2-3) L: Craig Stammen (6-5) S: Craig Kimbrel (5)

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