With Power and Precision, Yankees Take Another From the Cubs In Baseball

The Chicago Cubs pounded baseballs over the wall and had the best starting rotation in baseball last season. But what they did better than any other team was play defense — and they did it by a historic margin.

With their effective use of shifts and Gold Glove Award winners at first base in Anthony Rizzo and right field in Jason Heyward, a worthy Gold Glove candidate in shortstop Addison Russell and the defensive dynamo Javier Baez at second base, the Cubs converted batted balls into outs better than any team had in 34 years, according to Baseball Prospectus.

The Yankees had the solution in their 11-6 victory over the Cubs on Saturday night. They simply hit the ball where the Cubs could not reach it — spraying one after another down the foul lines during a five-run first inning and a couple of others over the ivy-covered walls of Wrigley Field for good measure.

It made for a comfortable night for the rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who allowed just three hits and two earned runs in six and two-thirds innings as the Yankees won their fourth in a row and remained atop the American League East.

Starlin Castro, a former Cub, continued to make his return to Wrigley a memorable one. He hit one of the balls that ended up where no Cub could catch it, into the left-field bleachers for a two-run homer, and he has five hits in the series.

Cubs fans, as is their tradition for home runs by the visiting team, tossed the ball back onto the field. Aaron Hicks received a similar treatment after his three-run homer in the eighth.

It was fourth hit of the night for Hicks, whose turnaround from last season, when he hit .217, embodies the Yankees’ early reversal from a year ago. Hicks, who has replaced the injured Jacoby Ellsbury in the lineup since Monday, is hitting .355. Manager Joe Girardi was reluctant to play him last season, but now he is seeking out ways to get him at-bats.

“I give him a lot of credit because he wasn’t happy during spring training,” Girardi said, referring to his decision to award the right field spot to Aaron Judge.

Hicks, a former first-round draft pick, did not argue with Girardi’s assessment that he has matured. “I have more of a plan, an idea of what I want to do in every at-bat, and it’s been working out so far,” Hicks said.

As Hicks reached first base after his home run, he pointed to C. C. Sabathia in the dugout. Before Hicks had come to the plate, Sabathia had suggested that Hicks — who at the time had five home runs to his name this season — had not hit one in a while. Hicks had shrugged the idea off.

“Then I ended up hitting it, and I got excited,” he said.

But the Yankees built their lead not with power but with placement.

Brett Gardner, who won the series opener on Friday with a two-out, two-strike, three-run homer in the ninth inning, ripped the third pitch he saw in the first inning between Rizzo and the first-base line for a double

“Rizzo covers a lot of ground, not just front and back but side to side,” Gardner said. “When he dove for it, I wasn’t sure. If he gets that, who knows how that changes the inning?”

Hicks then beat out a bunt, which he had laid down to move the runner up, and Gardner raced home when pitcher Brett Anderson threw the ball past Rizzo. Castro drove in Hicks by slicing the first pitch of his at-bat just inside the right-field line. After Judge struck out, Gary Sanchez lashed a single a few feet inside the left-field line past a lunging Kris Bryant, scoring Castro.

Didi Gregorius followed by dropping a soft liner into shallow left field. Chase Headley drove home Sanchez and Gregorius when his liner landed down the right-field line for a double.

Anderson then left with what the Cubs announced was a low back injury. He had recorded one out.

Although the Yankees jumped to an 8-0 lead, and restored the margin to 11-3 after Hicks hit his home run in the eighth, the Cubs made the Yankees sweat a little when they pushed across three runs in the eighth before Adam Warren replaced Tommy Layne and escaped further damage by striking out Ben Zobrist with runners at second and third.

The Cubs, already thin on pitching, waved the white flag in the ninth — they sent catcher Miguel Montero to the mound. After walking Sanchez, he got Gregorius to ground into a forceout, retired Headley on a liner and, after a walk by Chris Carter, got Rob Refsnyder to fly out to center.

As Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. camped under the ball, the crowd rose to its feet and gave Montero a standing ovation. He responded by tipping his cap as he jogged back to the dugout, having performed a feat the Cubs’ starter could not: getting three outs.

INSIDE PITCH

The Yankees could have Jacoby Ellsbury back in center field and Matt Holliday at first base on Sunday night. Ellsbury has not played since he injured his elbow crashing into the Yankee Stadium wall on Monday. Holliday, the designated hitter, has not played in the field this season. … Aaron Judge, who was moved into the cleanup spot for the first time this season, was hitless in five at-bats on Saturday night.