Welcome relief. Blessed relief.
They came in two forms Saturday for the Cubs in a 6-5 victory over the San Diego Padres at Wrigley Field, the second straight win for the Cubs over the Padres by that score.
Four Cubs relievers came in and preserved a victory for starter Jose Quintana, who worked five innings in beastly heat and humidity.
The second form of relief came with the weather, and it elicited one of the most interesting reactions from the crowd of 40,313.
A day that started with a game time temperature of 94 degrees and a heat index of 107 turned on a dime late in the afternoon as the southwest wind shifted to the opposite direction, sending the mercury plummeting and getting an ovation from the crowd.
Seriously, an ovation for the wind.
“No, but I experienced it from the opposite direction, the Chinook winds in Colorado,” said Cubs manager Joe Maddon, whose team is 54-44 and 7-1 on the homestand. “Same thing. It’ll flip on you like that from cold to hot. This was hot to cold. That was so refreshing, oh, my God. And at the right time, 6-5 game. Perfect.”
Perfect was hardly the word to describe the way these two teams played for a second straight day, but the Cubs have one guy who comes as close to perfect as anybody, and he wove his magic again.
Javy Baez hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning off Joey Lucchesi to rally the Cubs from down 4-3 to give them a 6-4 lead.
But wait, there’s always more with Baez. In the ninth, with closer Craig Kimbrel on the mound, Baez came across the second-base bag and tagged out Wil Myers trying to steal with one out. Getting the out seemed impossible – for anybody but Baez.
“The homer was to get the lead, and [the tag] was a key play to end the game, not to end the game, but in the last inning,” Baez said. “He’s a pretty good runner. He’s pretty fast.”
Kimbrel walked Manuel Margot during that at-bat, but got Manny Machado to line out, ending the game.
On the Cubs’ front, some of this game was a hot mess, much the same as the early afternoon weather.
Second baseman Addison Russell dropped Margot’s pop-up in short right field for a double in the third after Fernando Tatis homered. Machado then hit his 28th homer of the season to give the Padres a 3-2 lead.
Russell had a rough day running the bases, too. He was doubled off second to end the second inning on Albert Almora’s fly out to left. Russell also was thrown out at home in the fourth after he failed to score on the previous play, a much easier chance to come home.
Fortunately for the Cubs, Baez’s homer with two outs rescued the inning.
“He’s got to straighten some things out,” Maddon said. “He has to. There’s no question. I’m not going to stand here. We’ve talked about his baserunning in the past. The sun ball, yeah, there’s nothing you can do about that. But the baserunning, there’s some things there; we’re making too many outs on the bases. We’re missing things on the bases that we can’t to be an elite team.”
There was another mix-up in the field during the sixth, but reliever Brandon Kintzler saved the day. After David Bote made a throwing error on Luis Urias’ grounder, Austin Hedges popped up into short center. There looked to be a mix-up between Russell and center fielder Almora, and the ball fell.
Almora was alert enough to pick it up, and Kintzler was equally alert to cover second base for the rarely seen 8-1 putout on a tag play. Kintzler was able to work out of further trouble.
“It was definitely a crazy game, day of survival, for sure,” Kintzler said.