Cubs rally past Blue Jays in 10 innings
CHICAGO — The Chicago Cubs recaptured some the of magic — and luck — that helped make them World Series champions in 2016 after a 108-year drought.
Alex Avila singled home two runs to cap a three-run 10th-inning rally that led the Cubs past the Toronto Blue Jays 6-5 on Sunday.
National League Central-leading Chicago rebounded to win for the sixth time in eight games after Toronto scored twice in the top the 10th.
How the Cubs pulled this one out was, well, not exactly textbook.
Avila lined a hit to right with the bases loaded off Roberto Osuna (3-4) to drive in Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez. The Cubs had cut it to 5-4 when Kyle Schwarber came home from third on wild pitch.
Both Schwarber and Baez stuck out swinging but reached base when Toronto catcher Raffy Lopez couldn’t handle Osuna’s wild pitches and threw to first too late.
“Sometimes over the course of the year when you’re a team that’s trying to make the playoffs, you’ve got to win crazy games like that and games that you shouldn’t necessarily win,” Avila said.
Avila, a veteran catcher who joined the Cubs from the Detroit Tigers at the July 31 trade deadline, said he felt bad for Lopez, who couldn’t handle Osuna’s hard, lively pitches.
Osuna, the 22-year-old Blue Jays closer, blew his eighth save in 40 chances.
“He’s got power stuff, a really hard breaking ball, and sometimes that can be tough for a catcher to block with consistency,” Avila said.
Lopez said, “You just have to be ready like any other pitcher. They’re going to spin some in the dirt, try to get them to chase, like you would any other batter, any other pitcher.
“A block has to be made, and I just have to make a better throw to first.”
In the top of the 10th, Kevin Pillar singled in a run off Koji Uehara to make it 4-3. Justin Wilson (1-0) entered and walked Norichika Aoki with the bases loaded to put Toronto ahead 5-3.
It looked as if that would be all the Blue Jays would need to avert a sweep in their first visit to Wrigley Field since 2005.
“We’ve played hard all series, got the big hit to put us up,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “We had to come back, battle back. ... And they got the magic here, there’s no doubt about that.”
Chicago’s Albert Almora Jr. drove in three runs with a third-inning double for a 3-0 advantage. Starter Kyle Hendricks couldn’t hold the lead, but the Cubs found a way to pull this one out.
“We could have easily packed it in,” Almora said. “But we went out and battled, a couple of balls went our way, and we’re right back in it.”
Former Cub Miguel Montero hit a solo shot in sixth inning to tie the score at 3, and he also had a double. Jose Bautista also drove in a run for Toronto.
The Blue Jays acquired Montero from the Cubs on July 3, six days after the veteran catcher blamed pitcher Jake Arrieta for allowing seven stolen bases in a loss to Washington, then was designated for assignment.
Hendricks allowed three runs and struck out six in six innings. The righty ended up with his fifth no-decision in six starts since returning from right hand tendinitis on July 24.
Hendricks hasn’t won since May 24 against the San Francisco Giants.
Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada also allowed three runs in six innings in a no-decision. Estrada is 1-6 in his past 15 starts.
Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson made his first career start at shortstop. Bautista was at third base and Ezequiel Carrera moved into right field as Gibbons shuffled his lineup.
Donaldson moved from third to short late in the opening two games of the series. His only other major league experience at the position was one inning for Oakland in 2013.
Catcher Rene Rivera, claimed by the Cubs off waivers Saturday from the New York Mets, started behind the plate on Sunday and went 1-for-3.
The Cubs loaded the bases with no outs to start the third, then Almora cleared them with a soft double down the left field line.
The Jays trimmed the margin to 3-1 in the fourth when Justin Smoak led off with a double and Bautista singled him home. Toronto narrowed it to 3-2 in the fifth after Aoki doubled to lead off, then scored from third as Carrera grounded into a double play.
NOTES: RHP Koji Uehara, the fifth of six Chicago relievers, returned from a stint on the disabled list caused by a neck strain. ... The Cubs optioned LHP Rob Zastryzny and C Victor Caratini to Triple-A Iowa. ... C Rene Rivera is the second veteran backstop acquired by Chicago in less than a month and will help while No. 1 C Willson Contreras (right hamstring strain) recovers. ... Toronto RHP Joe Biagini may be recalled soon from Triple-A Buffalo, where he was sent in early August to get “stretched out” and work on longer outings to become a starter.