A’s rally falls just short at Wrigley Field
CHICAGO — Led by Javier Baez, the Chicago Cubs had enough offense Monday night to make up for the absence of Willson Contreras.
They missed Craig Kimbrel — a lot.
Baez went deep twice on the fifth anniversary of his major league debut, and the Cubs held on for a wild 6-5 victory over the Oakland Athletics.
“Team victory once again,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The whole group was utilized on the field.”
Especially his bullpen.
The Cubs placed Kimbrel on the 10-day injured list before the game, and Brandon Kintzler had discomfort in his right pectoral muscle after escaping a jam in the eighth.
After Kyle Ryan faltered in the ninth, David Phelps came in with two on and two out. Marcus Semien then flied out to the warning track in left, coming up just short in his bid for a third homer on the night.
“We were one groove away on the bat from going ahead right there,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said.
Phelps, who came over in a trade with Toronto last week, earned his first save since Sept. 20, 2016, for Miami against Washington. Rowan Wick (2-0) got two outs for the win.
“It’s just next guy up,” said Kyle Hendricks, who pitched two-run ball into the seventh inning. “We have confidence in every single guy in that locker room.”
Ian Happ and Nicholas Castellanos also homered as Chicago improved to 40-18 at home with its fourth straight win. It was Castellanos’ first homer since he was acquired in a trade with Detroit on Wednesday.
The Cubs are counting on their depth to help them stay on top of the NL Central until Kimbrel and Contreras return. Kimbrel is dealing with right knee inflammation, and Contreras is expected to miss four weeks after an MRI showed a Grade 2 hamstring strain.
Maddon said it will be closer by committee while Kimbrel is out, and Victor Caratini will be the primary catcher while Contreras is sidelined. The 12-hit attack in the series opener helped make up for a shaky performance by the bullpen on a warm night.
Oakland had won six of seven and nearly pulled off an impressive rally in its first game at Wrigley Field since 2010. Semien led the way, and Nick Martini connected for his second career homer in a successful homecoming for the suburban Chicago native.
“I don’t know if I could’ve planned it any better than that,” Martini said. “It was a special moment to do that in front of all my friends and family, for sure.”
The game was tied at 2 when Happ opened the seventh with a pinch-hit drive off Blake Treinen (6-4) that traveled an estimated 474 feet to right-center. It was Happ’s first major league homer since Sept. 14 against Cincinnati.
Castellanos added an RBI double and Baez belted a two-run shot as Chicago opened a 6-2 lead. Baez also hit a tying solo drive off Chris Bassitt in the sixth for his 27th homer.
The A’s responded with three in the eighth on consecutive homers by Martini and Semien off Steve Cishek. They had runners on the corners with two outs when Kintzler retired Mark Canha on a sharp grounder to second.