CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Cubs fans got a chance to see the franchise’s next star in person.
Second baseman Javier Baez had a broken-bat single and struck out four times Friday in a 4-3, 10-imnning loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It was nothing new, nothing different,” said the 22-year-old, who hit three home runs in his first three road games. “I wasn’t nervous or anything. I just was not being pitched around the plate and swung at bad pitches.
“I just have to be patient. There’s another game tomorrow. We’ll come back and play hard again.”
Baez is the first of the Cubs s-called “core prospects” to reach the major leagues. Many in the large and unusually enthusiastic crowd at Wrigley Field afforded the free swinger a standing ovation when he stepped to the plate for the first time.
“Yeah, for sure. Why not?” Baez said when asked whether he expected the loud response. “Yeah, they do (like him), and I like them, too.”
“Pretty special,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria called the reception. “And we’re glad because we’re starting to see some of young men that have been talked about for a little while. They’re starting to arrive. There’s some excitement to it because there’s some legitimate skill, potentially impacting-type players.”
Even Rays manager Joe Maddon was impressed at first glance.
“I can see why they like a lot of their young players,” Maddon said. “(Chris) Coghlan has really reinvented himself here. ... (Anthony) Rizzo I had never seen before. It’s legit. He looks like (Travis) Hafner in his prime. The whole group, they have some juice over there.”
Kevin Kiermaier, who entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter, drove in the game-winning run with a single in the 10th.
Desmond Jennings went 2 for 5 with a homer and Ben Zobrist went 3 for 5 as Tampa Bay won its second straight.
Brad Boxberger (3-1) blew the save in the ninth, but pitched a perfect 10th to get the win. Hector Rondon (3-4) took the loss.
Jennings started the game-winning rally with a one-out single and advance to third when Zobrist singled. Kiermaier, who went 1 for 2, singled to center to score Jennings and break the 3-3 tie.
Chicago starter Tsuyoshi Wada allowed two runs and four hits in six-plus innings, while Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer allowed two runs (one earned) and five hits in six innings.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the first when Starlin Castro singled to drive in Baez. Tampa Bay tied it on Jennings’ leadoff homer in the third.
John Baker singled in a run in the fourth for a 2-1 Cubs lead.
Following Jennings’ homer, Wada retired 12 straight batters before first baseman Sean Rodriguez led off the seventh with a triple down the right-field line. Renteria brought in right-hander Brian Schlitter to face Yunel Escobar.
With the infield playing in, Escobar grounded out to shortstop for the first out with Rodriguez holding. Catcher Curt Casali, the next hitter, grounded out to shortstop, but this time Rodriguez broke for the plate and just beat the throw from Castro to tie the score.
The Rays took a 3-2 lead in the eighth on a two-out pinch-hit by Matt Joyce, but the Cubs tied in the ninth when Ryan Sweeney singled to drive in Justin Ruggiano from second base with one out.
LONG TIME COMING
The series at Wrigley Field is the first for the Rays since 2003 and the second in their history. In their first game there, Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa was ejected after cork was discovered in his shattered bat. He was suspended for seven games after an appeal.
Rays: Outfielder Wil Myers (fractured right hand) is expected to begin a minor league rehab stint this weekend. He has missed 60 games through Friday with the injury.
Cubs: Right-hander Neil Ramirez (triceps soreness) is eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday.
Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi (7-9, 4.09) will oppose Edwin Jackson (6-11, 5.66) in the second game of the series on Saturday.