Just like that, the surging Cubs are in position to grab the NL Central lead.
Baez led off the eighth inning with a tiebreaking drive, and Chicago wiped out a four-run deficit to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 6-5 on Saturday.
Baez drove a 2-2 pitch from John Brebbia (1-1) the opposite way to right for his 11th homer , sending the Cubs to their season-high sixth straight win. Fans chanted “Javy! Javy!” as he came out for a curtain call.
Brandon Kintzler (1-0) worked a scoreless eighth. Pedro Strop retired all three batters in the ninth for his fourth save in five chances as the Cubs cut St. Louis’ lead in the NL Central to a half-game despite a shaky start by Yu Darvish. They’re also eyeing a potential weekend sweep of their rivals.
“The first 10 games of the season, it was everybody talking about us,” Baez said. “And now, where’s everybody?”
The Cubs sure have turned things around after a 2-7 start. Baez coming through in a big moment is nothing new. But for Davis, this was different.
Recalled from Triple-A Iowa three weeks ago, he became the first Cubs player to hit a grand slam for his first career homer since pitcher Kevin Tapani at Atlanta on July 20, 1998. He came into the game with five hits in 23 at-bats since debuting with Chicago in 2017.
“It was a really, really fun feeling hearing Wrigley Field react like that,” Davis said.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt had no regrets about walking Schwarber with runners on second and third to get to Davis.
“Schwarber is a guy who can do damage,” he said. “We got a guy who hits the ball on the ground, we got a great chance at a double play to get out of it. We know they’re probably going to hit for Darvish, we take our shot with probably (Jason) Heyward at that point in time. He got a pitch and put a swing on it and it was a big swing.”
Darvish threw 81 pitches, just as Kyle Hendricks did in Friday’s four-hit shutout, but was nowhere near as effective. He gave up five runs and six hits while walking five in four-plus innings.
Jose Martinez homered leading off the second for the Cardinals. Wacha delivered in a big way at the plate, tying a career high with two hits, but couldn’t protect a 5-1 lead as St. Louis lost its third straight game.
Wacha doubled and scored in the third, and drove in two with a single during a three-run fourth. His only other two-hit game was at Wrigley Field on July 8, 2015.
But he gave up five runs — four earned — and six hits in five innings.
Martinez had a long, heated exchange with plate umpire Larry Vanover batting in the ninth. Martinez held his hand up to call time so he could get his timing down, but the request was not granted. Instead, Strop threw a strike and that led to the argument.
Shildt came out to talk to Vanover, and Yadier Molina got between Martinez and the umpire. Martinez said he had a tough time focusing after that and struck out.
Cardinals: CF Dexter Fowler was back in the lineup. He pinch hit in the ninth inning Friday after missing the previous three games because of flu-like symptoms.
Cubs: 2B Daniel Descalso is day to day after leaving the game because of a sore left ankle. He was hurt rounding first on a single in the first inning and was lifted for a pinch hitter in the fourth. … LHP Mike Montgomery (mild left lat strain) appears close to rejoining the Cubs after throwing six solid innings for Triple-A Iowa on Friday. “It sounds like he’s checked all the boxes,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s always about the next day, making sure everything’s cool, and then we’ll make our moves after that. But yeah, it was very encouraging to hear what he did.”
Cardinals: RHP Adam Wainwright (3-2, 3.73 ERA) looks to win his third straight start. He held Washington to two runs in a season-high 6 1/3 innings on Tuesday.
Cubs: LHP Jose Quintana (3-1, 3.48) tries to continue his strong run, with a 3-0 record and 1.69 ERA in his past four starts.