Cubs

Javy Baez leads Cubs to huge win with a little help from Pedro Strop

Javy Baez leads Cubs to huge win with a little help from Pedro Strop

For the second time this season, Pedro Strop has added another chapter to the legend of El Mago.

And for at least the second documented time over the last few years, Strop also helped give Javy Baez the motivation needed to lift the Cubs to victory.

On an 0-2 pitch from Mets reliever Seth Lugo in the eighth inning, Baez smacked a 3-run homer into the right-field bleachers, notching the Cubs shortstop another curtain call and sending the 39,077 fans at Wrigley Field into euphoric bliss.

"That was big. He was so frustrated," said Strop, who picked up his 9th save in the 5-3 victory. "When I was walking to the 'pen, he was so frustrated after that first strikeout [against Jacob deGrom]. He was like, 'He's not throwing fastballs, just sliders!' I was like, 'Bro, it's good that you know that. So go up with another plan. Do your thing. You're gonna win this ballgame.'"

Baez's 100th career homer accomplished exactly that and in doing so, changed the entire tone and tenor of the first weekend of summer on Chicago's North Side.

There's no way the Cubs wanted to go into a four-game set with the contending Atlanta Braves after having just dropped three of four to a hapless Mets team that is melting down inside the clubhouse. It also would've been the Cubs' ninth loss in their 13 games, but Baez's clutch blast helped them salvage a series split and maintain sole possession of first place entering a new week of baseball.

"That's the last thing you want to do is lose another one," said Cole Hamels, who gave the Cubs 7 strong innings, but did not factor in the decision. "... That's the momentum we need to take forth, especially with the series that's coming up."

It also continued one of the strangest/coolest statistical oddities of the 2019 MLB season, given that it came on an 0-2 count.

Baez now has more homers after falling behind in the count 0-2 this year than NINE other MLB teams and nearly half of his homers (9 of 19) have come after getting into the extreme pitcher's count:

What makes Baez so tough on 0-2 counts?

For starters, he's never afraid of striking out, possessing a fearless nature Joe Maddon and other Cubs players have admired for some time.

But Hamels also provided some great perspective on why Baez might be so good in a count when pitchers typically dominate:

"I think that's kinda the difficult part with him — sometimes it can always be 0-2 with him," Hamels said. "Even if you haven't thrown a pitch yet, you treat it like 0-2. If that's just the nature of what pitchers do to him — if it's considered almost always an 0-2 count — he's gonna get really good at it because that's just the way he survives and the way he lives and plays the game. 

"With him though, being a teammate, you just know that he's never out of it. He's trying to hit a homer every at-bat, every pitch. That obviously can make a pitcher think a little bit longer and maybe try to be too perfect and therefore that's why they make mistakes."

The win puts a nice bow on what was otherwise a sloppy weekend for the Cubs, who often looked flat at the plate and made uncharacteristic mistakes on the basepaths and in the field. 

Prior to that homer from Baez, the Cubs had only managed to push across 1 earned run in 13 innings against a Mets bullpen that entered the weekend with a 5.39 ERA and more blown saves than any other team in baseball.

It's the second time in just over a week where the Cubs managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but the last time (Anthony Rizzo's homer off Kenley Jansen last Saturday in L.A.) apparently wasn't enough to spark the team to get back to their winning ways. 

Was this Baez blast enough to wake the team from their midseason slumber and be this year's seminal moment that we all look back on in September? 

Barrington DE Lukas VanNess and Lemont senior WR Anthony Sambucci give verbal commits

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Barrington DE Lukas VanNess and Lemont senior WR Anthony Sambucci give verbal commits

Barrington senior three star ranked defensive end Lukas VanNess (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) wrapped up a wild last few months of his recruiting process and today gave the Iowa Hawkeyes his verbal commitment. 

"After a great official visit weekend at Iowa meeting with the entire staff incoming recruits and current players it became apparent that Iowa was the right fit and decision for me," VanNess said. "Iowa offers such a family atmosphere that it just can't be created anywhere else."

VanNess, who was offered a scholarship last week by the Iowa Hawkeye coaches didn't see his recruiting stock really begin to talk off until three weeks ago. VanNess, who had some FCS and limited lower D1 offers at the time attended and performed well at the Lindenwood Megacamp in early June. Immediately after that camp VanNess was able to come away with multiple offers from the likes of Illinois, Kansas, NIU, Wyoming and his recruiting stock took off since that camp and grew to an impressive 31 offers before pledging to the Hawkeyes today.

VanNess is also the Hawkeyes 18th known verbal commitment in the Class of 2020 and the fifth known State of Illinois pledge for Iowa. VanNess joins Decatur MacArthur S AJ Lawson who earlier this weekend also committed to the Hawkeyes along with Richards RB Leshon Williams, Byron OL Tyler Elsbury plus Lena Winslow DT Isaiah Bruce as State of Illinois pledges for Iowa. 

Lemont senior WR Anthony Sambucci (6-foot-1, 175 pounds) added an offer from Western Michigan last week and made a return visit to Western Michigan this weekend and on Sunday gave the Broncos and head coach Tim Lester his verbal commitment. 

"The offer and the opportunity from Western Michigan was just too good for me to pass up," Sambucci said. "I visited again this weekend and after getting to learn more about the coaches and the team I knew I was ready to commit to Western Michigan."

Sanbucci is the 12th known verbal commitment for Western Michigan in the Class of 2020 and the third State of Illinois pledge. Sambucci joins Phillips S Ronald Pledger along with Brother Rice S Giacomo Irace as Land of Lincoln pledges for WMU.