CHICAGO – The Cubs know full well that others will have to step up with catcher Willson Contreras and closer Craig Kimbrel on the injured list.
Consider Monday night’s 6-5 victory over the Oakland Athletics a good step up, even if it was a shaky one.
The Cubs got a pair of home runs from Javy Báez, a mammoth pinch homer from Ian Happ and a homer and a double from Nicholas Castellanos.
They also got 61/3 innings of one-hit, two-run ball from starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks.
The Athletics scored three runs in the eighth against reliever Steve Cishek, but the Cubs held on to improve to 61-51.
There might be another injury situation for the Cubs. Brandon Kintzler bailed out Cishek but left the game rubbing his right pectoral area. The Cubs said he felt “discomfort” and that the team would know more Tuesday.
Kyle Ryan got into trouble in the ninth, but David Phelps finished for his first Cubs save since coming over last week from Toronto.
“I think that’s what we pride ourselves on: next guy up,” Hendricks said. “We have confidence in every single guy in that locker room.”
Contreras will be out about four weeks with a right hamstring strain, and Kimbrel went on the IL Monday with right knee inflammation.
Castellanos gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the first with his first homer since being traded to the Cubs from Detroit last week. Oakland’s Marcus Semien hit a two-run homer (his first of two on the night) in the second.
Báez hit a solo homer leading off the bottom of the sixth. The Cubs scored four runs in the seventh, with Happ leading off with his pinch homer. Castellanos had an RBI double before Baez hit a two-out, two-run homer.
The home runs came on the five-year anniversary of Báez’s big-league debut. He hit a game-winning homer in the 12th inning at Colorado on Aug. 5, 2014, for his first big-league hit.
“Just really excited to still be healthy,” said Báez, who has 28 homers this year. “I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been trying to learn something every day from the veteran guys.”
Infielder-outfielder Ben Zobrist completed a weekend series at Class A South Bend as he attempts to return to the Cubs. Zobrist is on the restricted list as he deals with family issues surrounding his divorce.
Zobrist went 2 for 9 in three games. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Zobrist headed home and that all sides will discuss the next step. The plan has been for Zobrist to use most of August to play himself back into shape with days off in between minor league stops.
PUT ME IN, COACH
With Contreras injured, Victor Caratini and Taylor Davis are the Cubs’ catchers. The emergency catcher is left fielder Kyle Schwarber, who was drafted as a catcher but has not seen any action behind the plate since appearing in one game in 2017.
“Oh, he wants to, man,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He came in after the game yesterday and talked to me about actually starting a game. He’s ready to roll.”
CUBS CALL UP UNDERWOOD
The Cubs recalled pitcher Duane Underwood from Class AAA Iowa. They will use him in long-relief situations. He was recalled at the end of July but did not see action.
The Cubs also announced that reliever Brad Brach had cleared waivers and was granted his release. The Cubs designated Brach for assignment Saturday.
The time of the Sept. 19 game at Wrigley Field against the St. Louis Cardinals has been changed to 6:15 p.m. for a national exclusive telecast on FOX. The game originally was scheduled for 7:05 p.m.