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 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.
Contreras will be out about four weeks with a right-hamstring strain, and Kimbrel went on the IL Monday with right-knee inflammation.
“In spite of the injuries, we’ve got a nice group in there,” manager Joe Maddon said. “And that speaks to depth, too. I like our names a lot.”
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. 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 Báez hit a two-out, two-run homer.
Zobrist update: Infielder-outfielder Ben Zobrist completed a weekend series at Single-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 Willson Contreras on the injured list, Victor Caratini and Taylor Davis are the Cubs’ catchers. The emergency catcher is left fielder Kyle Schwarber, who was drafted as a catcher but who has not seen any action behind the plate since appearing in 1 game in 2017.
“Oh, he wants to, man,” 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: With closer Craig Kimbrel going on the injured list Monday with a knee ailment, the Cubs recalled pitcher Duane Underwood from Class AAA Iowa. The Cubs will use Underwood in long-relief situations. He was recalled at the end of July but did not see action. Underwood made a spot start last season. He was a second-round pick in the 2012 draft.
The Cubs also announced that reliever Brad Brach had cleared waivers and was granted his release. The Cubs designated Brach for assignment Saturday.
Gametime change: The time of the Thursday, Sept. 19, game at Wrigley Field against the St. Louis Cardinals has been changed to 6:15 p.m. for a national exclusive telecast FOX. The game originally was scheduled for 7:05 p.m.