The Rundown: Montero Hits Walk-Off HR in Cubs’ 6th Straight Win, Hammel Pulled Early Again, Baez in the Outfield?

For whatever reason after the first inning of last night’s game, I felt like the Cubs’ winning streak was coming to an end.

Ryan Braun homered in the top of the first, and the Cubs went down quietly — I was preparing for a loss.

But then in the top of the 2nd, the first of two amazing defensive plays by Anthony Rizzo happened. After recording an out on a bunt, Rizzo threw an absolute laser to third base to catch Scooter Gennett straying off the bag.

On the following play, Rizzo caught a routine pop-up and jogged off the field with a giant grin on his face.

At that moment, I knew the Cubs had a good chance of winning. This team is having fun, they’re loose, and they have confidence.

Kris Bryant’s 16th home run and an RBI single by Addison Russell gave the Cubs a 2-1 advantage that they held onto until the 9th.

In what seemed like a repeat from Sunday, Hector Rondon allowed the first two batters to reach second and third base. But after striking out the next two Brewers, he buried a slider for a wild pitch and allowed the tying run to score.

It was a tough outing, but Rondon’s stuff looked nasty. He could’ve been shaken by a bloop hit, error and wild pitch. But he kept his cool and struck out his third batter to keep the score tied.

Then in the 10th:

Miguel Montero has been such a great addition to the Cubs. His leadership skills, attitude and humor are all top notch and his baseball skills aren’t too shabby either.

Obligatory comments about how on-fire the Cubs are right now: They’ve won six in a row and 12 out of 13. The Cardinals beat the Pirates, so the Cubs are 1.5 games out of the first wild card spot. And they somehow remain 8.5 games behind St. Louis.

Hammel removed early again

For the second game in a row, starter Jason Hammel was removed earlier than he wanted. This time, Maddon came and got him with two outs in the 6th inning. He had thrown very few pitches (65).

Hammel was visibly upset with Maddon’s decision, as I can imagine. However, it was a one-run game at the time, and lefty Adam Lind was coming up to bat. The move worked, and the Cubs won the game. That’s the most important part.

After the game, Hammel didn’t have much to say about the decision, but Maddon admitted he might be walking a fine line with his starter. I’d be surprised if Hammel is pulled early in his next start. You don’t want him to become too frustrated so that it affects his game.

Others have wondered if Hammel is completely healthy. He suffered a hamstring injury right before the All-Star break, and he hasn’t gone deep in a game since then.

Sahadev Sharma wonders if the Cubs are trying to preserve him in the second half of the season, where he has had troubles in years past.

I’m not too worried about this development. I think Maddon will straighten everything out and get the most out of his pitcher.

Other notes

* Javier Baez…in the outfield? It’s something Baez is open to, he tells Tommy Birch. It certainly would add to his versatility, something I’m sure Joe Maddon would love. Baez will most likely be a bench-type player when he’s called up to the Cubs later this year, and he’ll be able to fill in all over the field. Last night, playing shortstop, Baez went 1-for-2 with a triple, walk, run scored and RBI.

* Tommy La Stella should be up with the Cubs by Sept. 1, Theo Epstein said before yesterday’s game. The Cubs decided to option him to Iowa after coming off the disabled list so he could get some consistent at-bats. He wouldn’t be getting that in Chicago right now. La Stella did not appear in Iowa’s game last night.

* After acquiring shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and ace David Price, the Toronto Blue Jays have been unbeatable. They’ve won 10 in a row and have overtaken first place in the American League East. The Blue Jays are an exciting team. They’ll probably be the AL team I’m rooting for in the post-season (assuming they make it).

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