Cubs thump D-backs, back atop Central alone

Cubs thump D-backs, back atop Central alone

PHOENIX -- Jake Arrieta pitched six quality innings and Javier Baez smacked a three-run homer as the Cubs captured the series with the D-backs and moved a game ahead of the second-place Cardinals with a 7-2 win Sunday afternoon at Chase Field.

"We keep an eye on [the standings], especially at this time of year," Arrieta said. "All we can do is play the best we can and try to win that day."

Arrieta (12-8) kept the D-backs off the board until the fifth, while the Cubs built a 2-0 lead against Zack Godley. Arrieta pitched out of several jams and struck out six, with the lone run coming on a sacrifice fly by David Peralta.

Arrieta cites mechanics for 2nd-half success

Arrieta's strong outing

After single runs in the first and second, the Cubs' offense went quiet until the eighth, when Baez crushed a hanging Jake Barrett breaking a ball off the LED board in front of Friday's Front Row Sports Grill, tracked by Statcast™ at 463 feet and hit at 112.6 mph -- both high marks for Baez.

"There's times he can be frustrating and other times, he hits three-run homers in the upper tank," manager Joe Maddon said of Baez, whose error Saturday night led to a D-backs run in a 6-2 win over the Cubs.

Baez made the D-backs pay for intentionally walking Jason Heyward in front of him and gave the Cubs a 5-1 lead. Pinch-hitter Ian Happ followed with a solo shot, the seventh time the Cubs have hit back-to-back homers this season.

"Baez is a guy who loves the moment," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "He loves to be up there in that situation with that personality and he was waiting for that mistake. I think we helped create that moment, we just didn't execute. I know the plan was in place to do a better job, but unfortunately it just didn't happen."

In the ninth, Kris Bryant smacked a leadoff blast, his 21st homer and first since July 30, to finish 3-for-4. He reached base in all but two of his 15 plate appearances in the three-game series.

Bryant's big day at the dish

"He's the reigning National League MVP and he's a hot hitter, so anytime somebody at that level is hot you could roll a ball up there and they're still going to hit it," Lovullo said. "Hopefully he takes it out on the next set of pitchers."

Sprinting for home: Heads-up baserunning by Bryant helped the Cubs get off to a 1-0 lead in the first. After Bryant singled and moved to second on a walk, he came around to score when Godley's third-strike pitch to Victor Caratini got away from catcher Chris Iannetta. Bryant never broke stride rounding third and was able to slide in just ahead of the tag.

Must C: Bryant flashes speed

"He threw it and fell down and I saw him fall and I made my mind up really early I was going," Bryant said of his scramble. "It was a lot closer than I thought it would be. It was one of those plays being aggressive and knowing he has good stuff on the mound. I thought it would be tough to score runs today. It was important to get on the board early." More >

Bryant on his big game, series

Stay there: The D-backs got a double from Jake Lamb to lead off the fourth and it looked as though they might have the makings of a big inning. Arrieta, though, had other ideas as he struck out Paul Goldschmidt and then retired J.D. Martinez and Daniel Descalso to leave Lamb stranded at second. Lamb went 3-for-4, while the rest of Arizona's lineup was held hitless until Goldschmidt's 28th homer, a solo shot in the ninth off Cubs closer Wade Davis.

"We had a couple of moments where I felt like he was on a little bit of a slippery slope," Lovullo said of Arrieta. "And we could've taken advantage of some things and scored some runs and he got on a nice roll."

Lovullo on the 7-2 loss

"[The Cardinals] have been playing well. Give them credit. I thought they'd be there until the very end. I still think Pittsburgh is there, Milwaukee is still there. There will be a real interesting finish to the [NL] Central this year." -- Maddon

Godley wound up striking out four Cubs in the first after Caratini reached first on a strikeout/wild pitch. That was the second time in D-backs franchise history that a pitcher recorded four strikeouts in one inning. The other time was when Oliver Perez fanned four Brewers in the seventh inning Sept. 20, 2014. More >

Godley K's four in the 1st

The D-backs initiated a manager's challenge in the third when Caratini was called safe while advancing to second after Bryant was tagged out in a rundown between third and home. After a brief review the call stood, meaning there was not sufficient video evidence to overturn it.

Caratini called safe at second

In the eighth, Albert Almora Jr. hit a grounder to third and was called out on a bang-bang play at first base. The Cubs challenged the call, but after a review, it was confirmed and Almora was out. It hardly mattered, though, as the Cubs went on to score four runs in the inning.

Almora Jr. grounds out to third

Cubs: Jose Quintana will make his sixth start with the Cubs on Monday to open a four-game series against the Reds. It will be the lefty's first career start against the Reds, who are one of four teams he's never faced. First pitch will be 7:05 p.m. CT at Wrigley Field.

D-backs: Zack Greinke will be on the mound Monday as the D-backs open a four-game, home-and-home series with the Astros at 6:40 p.m. MST. Greinke is 10-1 with a 2.52 ERA at Chase Field this year, taking his only loss there last week against the Dodgers.

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Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.