The Cubs won their sixth straight game and improved to 10-2 on the season Wednesday, but manager David Ross almost leapt through the Zoom camera when asked about a play early in the game when Javy Baez didn’t run right away on a pop fly that ended up dropping just fair in right field.
“I just think that’s a really close play, and if we want to nitpick, that ball looked like it was barely fair from our vantage point,” Ross said. “If I want to be the type of manager that nitpicks every little thing ... these guys go out and play their butt off every single night for me and this group. If I feel like they’re dogging it, we’ll have a conversation, but I feel like that’s a play he may have assumed was foul.”
That play ended up having no bearing on the Cubs’ 6-1 victory at Kansas City. Baez made it to first and drove in Kris Bryant with the tying run, but he conceivably could have reached second on the hit.
Willson Contreras followed by hitting into a double play, which actually sent home Anthony Rizzo with the go-ahead run in the fourth inning. At the time, Baez surely took some Twitter heat but heard nothing from Ross.
“I think Javy’s one of the most exciting players, and he plays hard every time I see him out there on the field,” Ross said. “So I don’t have a problem with a guy that brings it every single day. I’ve got to save his legs. He’s going to be in there every night.”
Yu Darvish (2-1) gave up one run and five hits in seven innings of work, with four strikeouts. Bullpen sensation Jeremy Jeffress handled the eighth and improved his stat line to no hits in six innings on the season.
In the ninth, Colin Rea came on to make his Cubs debut and his first major league appearance since 2016 with Miami. He’s been recovering from elbow surgery since then and pitched well for the Iowa Cubs last summer.
Besides quality starts, a Cubs specialty this season has been late-inning runs that give the bullpen some breathing room.
There were two outs and nobody on in the top of the eighth inning when Bryant reached on a throwing error by the third baseman. Rizzo, Baez and Contreras followed with three straight singles to score 2 runs and boost the lead to 4-1.
The Cubs tallied two more on the eighth on an Ian Happ double, Victor Caratini RBI single, then a double from Bryant and error in the outfield.
Ross tinkered with the lineup Wednesday, sending Nico Hoerner to center field for the first time, while David Bote started at second base. Neither player had defensive issues, and late in the game Horner moved back to second base, while Ian Happ took over in center.
“That was one that I stewed over for a little bit,” Ross said. “Just going with a little bit outside-of-the-box feel on that one. He’s got a close relationship with the guy on the mound. Sometimes that takes the competitive edge off a little bit.”
The Royals started rookie Kris Bubic, who was Hoerner’s college teammate at Stanford. Hoerner went 0 for 2 against his old friend, while Bubic retired the Cubs in order the first time through the lineup.