CHICAGO — Alex Avila capped Chicago’s three-run 10th inning with a two-run single, and the Cubs swept the Toronto Blue Jays with a wild 6-5 victory on Sunday.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Avila lined a base hit into right field against Roberto Osuna (3-4). Ben Zobrist scored easily and Javier Baez slid in safely just ahead of the throw from Jose Bautista.
Avila threw his arms in the air when it was over, then was mobbed by happy teammates near first base. The improbable rally also included two batters reaching on swing-and-miss strikeouts, and Kyle Schwarber scoring on a wild pitch.
Toronto grabbed the lead with two runs in the top of the inning on Kevin Pillar’s RBI single off Koji Uehara, and Norichika Aoki’s bases-loaded loaded walk against Justin Wilson (4-4).
Pillar also robbed Kris Bryant of extra bases with a spectacular leaping catch against the ivy-covered wall in centre in the seventh.
Albert Almora Jr. hit a three-run double for NL Central-leading Chicago, which has won four of five. Kyle Hendricks allowed three runs and six hits in six innings.
Chicago jumped in front in the third. With no outs and runners on first and second, Hendricks popped up a bunt that landed in front of a charging Marco Estrada, and the pitcher made an errant throw to first. Hendricks was awarded an infield hit, loading the bases.
Almora then drove Estrada’s next pitch into the corner in left, giving the Cubs a 3-0 lead. Almora advanced on Schwarber’s bouncer to first, but was stranded at third when Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo hit harmless grounders to second.
Toronto responded with single runs run in the fourth, fifth and sixth, capped by Miguel Montero’s second homer since the Cubs traded the catcher to the Blue Jays. After Bautista flied out to begin the sixth, Montero drove Hendricks’ next pitch over the wall in left-centre.
Montero helped Chicago win the World Series last year, but was designated for assignment on June 28 after he blamed pitcher Jake Arrieta for allowing seven stolen bases in a loss to Washington. Montero and Arrieta quickly patched things up, and each side has said everything is fine.
The Cubs added veteran catcher Rene Rivera to their roster and activated reliever Koji Uehara from the 10-day disabled list. Rookie catcher Victor Caratini and left-hander Rob Zastryzny were optioned to Triple-A Iowa.
Rivera was acquired Saturday on a waiver claim from the New York Mets. He used to watch the Cubs play with his grandfather when he was growing up in Puerto Rico.
“It’s an honour for me to be here (with) a team he loved so much and now I play for,” said Rivera, who singled and scored on Almora’s double.
A REAL SHIFT
Toronto had an unusual look on the left side of its infield. Regular third baseman Josh Donaldson made his first career start at shortstop, and veteran outfielder Bautista began the game at third.
Donaldson played a total of three innings at shortstop in the first two games of the series. He also played one inning at the position with Oakland in 2013.
Bautista, who played a lot of third early in his career, made his second start and sixth appearance of the season at the position.
Cubs SS Addison Russell (right foot strain) did some light running and threw in the outfield before the game.
Blue Jays: Following an off day, Toronto begins a three-game series against Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. RHP Marcus Stroman (11-6, 2.99 ERA) faces Rays RHP Jacob Faria (5-4, 3.32 ERA).
Cubs: RHP John Lackey (10-9, 4.67) pitches Tuesday night at Cincinnati in the opener of a six-game trip. Lackey is 5-0 with a 3.06 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break. RHP Homer Bailey (4-6, 8.44 ERA) goes for the Reds.