By Chris Emma—
CHICAGO (CBS) – The crowd rose to its feet with anticipation as Javier Baez stepped up representing the Cubs’ chance for a comeback victory.
Trailing 2-0 against the Reds after missing many chances Tuesday night, the Cubs had an opportunity to win it after Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward hit consecutive singles to open the ninth. But when Baez came to the plate against Reds closer Rafael Iglesias, Cubs manager Joe Maddon took a chance that didn’t pay off.
Maddon elected to bunt with Baez, first seeking a bunt single, then looking for a sacrifice. On the second pitch, Baez executed a successful sacrifice that moved the runners into scoring position, a decision that dropped the Cubs’ win expectancy from 32.4 percent to 30.1.
While the lead runner would go on to score, Heyward would be stranded at third. The Cubs lost 2-1, after which Maddon explained his thought process.
“It’s such a tough matchup for (Baez) versus that pitcher,” Maddon said after the game. “We settled for hopefully a single for two runs, and then you tie it up and then you can actually do some damage after and there’s other things you to actually possibly win the game.”
Sure enough, Maddon got the single he had hoped to see as Ben Zobrist ripped a line drive to right field, but Heyward was held up at third. After that single, which put runners at the corners with just one out, the Cubs’ win expectancy rose to 47.3 percent. But Jon Jay went down swinging and Alex Avila struck out looking to end the game.
“Great at-bat by Zobrist,” Maddon said. “He just hit it in the wrong spot.”
Perhaps it could have been a different outcome if the Cubs hadn’t conceded the out and played for the two-run single that only brought in one. Maddon was likely considering the 28 percent strikeout rate that Baez carries on the season.
The Cubs were ultimately done in by stranding 10 runners on base and going 1-for-9 with men in scoring position. One night after posting 15 runs, they scored just one.