If the Cubs ever needed to make the transition into basketball, they already have two positions set.

Joe Maddon has already compared Javy Baez to a good point guard and Sunday night, he likened Jon Jay to a good sixth man coming off the bench.

Maddon has spoken highly of Jay all year, joking about how he'd like to adopt the veteran outfielder as a sidekick.

Jay came through again in the clutch Sunday night, collecting the game-winning hit in the seventh inning to help the Cubs sweep the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Jon Jay is such a valuable baseball player," Maddon said. "It's kinda like John Havlicek — the sixth man in basketball becomes famous. He's the sixth man here. 

"You can pop him in there and it's like instant offense. You know something good possibly can happen. You know he's ready."

Maddon was asked prior to Sunday's game how he can work Jay and Albert Almora Jr. into the starting lineup more often now that Ian Happ has come up to the big leagues and emerged as the everyday centerfielder.

When revisiting the topic after the game, Maddon joked it's Jay's own fault he's on the bench because he's so valuable late in games.

Jay's knock Sunday now gives him the Major League Baseball lead in pinch hits and improve his average off the bench to .450 (9-for-20).

"Something I've learned — if you look at winning teams, they have a lot of depth," Jay said. "And that's what helps you get through the year. You never know when your name's gonna get called, whether it's starting, pinch-hitting, defense, stuff like that.

 

"That's what Albert and I have been doing — just trying to stay ready. We talk and are positive. You never know, you could come in like he did [Sunday], have a great at-bat and kind of jumpstart the team. That was a big momentum change in the game.

"Just being ready. Teams that win have a lot of depth and that's what the big picture is — to win."

As Jay said, Almora provided a spark off the bench for the Cubs, too.

Pinch-hitting for Kyle Hendricks in the fourth inning, Almora roped a two-out hit down the right-field line, driving in Miguel Montero. Cardinals right fielder let the ball get by him, allowing Addison Russell to score and Almora to motor around to third base.

Almora later scored on Ian Happ's go-ahead, three-run homer.

Almora is tied for third in all of baseball with six pinch-hits and pushed his average off the bench to .429 (6-for-14). What's even more impressive is he's doing this all in his first full big-league season.

"It's huge," Jason Heyward said. "I feel like you're only as good as your bench. If your bench is good and they can come off and produce and give people breathers and just be ready for any point in the game to come in and help, then it goes a real long way.

"It's awesome to see [Almora] go up there and find some comfort in that role. We're asked to do a lot of different things and I feel like that's another part of us growing as a team is realizing somebody's gonna be playing somewhere different every day and most likely in certain spots we didn't expect coming in.

"But we gotta find a way to get it done. Huge for him right there."

Jay has taken Almora under his wing this season and the two have stayed ready on the bench as they await the next opportunity.

"I feel like we have a good thing goin' on," Almora said. "I feel like we're never caught off guard. ... We each have our own routine, we're kinda always talking to each other, seeing what's going on, if you wanna go get some swings in. We're always helping each other out."