KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A little break in the action did Javier Baez some good.
Baez bounced back from a couple of strikeouts with a big home run, Cole Hamels pitched six strong innings and the Chicago Cubs beat the Kansas City Royals 3-1 on Monday night.
Baez has homered in back-to-back games for the fifth time this season and has six in his past 10 games with 14 RBIs.
He struck out swinging in his first two at-bats before a 22-minute rain delay in the fourth.
“I was so mad,” Baez said. “Not that I struck out, but it was pitches way out of the zone. After the rain delay I went out there with a different attitude and just trying to be patient. The first AB I was, like, damn, it’s my first time here and they’re yelling for me. I was really nervous and really happy.”
Baez hit the first pitch from reliever Kevin McCarthy (4-4) in the sixth inning to center for his 25th home run, putting the Cubs ahead 2-1.
“It was just a bad pitch,” McCarthy said. “It was down the middle and he got it. He’s just hot right now. He’s seeing the ball well and he got that one.”
Baez doubled in the eighth to score Jason Heyward, upping his RBI total to an NL-leading 88.
“He’s just a dangerous, dangerous hitter,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He’s going to attack. You don’t have to throw him strikes. He struck out the first two times with pitches way out of the zone. But he’s got 25 homers, so there are enough mistakes being made. But you make a pitch that’s not way out of the zone, he’s so talented and so strong, he’ll drive it out of the ball park.”
Hamels (7-9) is 2-0 since the Cubs acquired him in a July 27 trade with the Texas Rangers. He allowed one run and seven hits.
“I’ve faced these guys twice before this season,” Hamels said. “Pretty familiar with what they’re able to hit, what they’re not able to hit. I think noticing the curveball being pretty effective we’d like to stick with that and I think that was the case.”
Alcides Escobar’s two-out second-inning single scored Rosell Herrera for the first earned run Hamels allowed at Kauffman Stadium in four career starts, covering 21 2/3 innings.
Royals starter Jakob Junis worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth. Ben Zobrist and Heyward hit ground ball outs to end the inning.
The Royals loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the inning, but Hamels retired Hunter Dozier on a grounder to first baseman Anthony Rizzo on a full-count pitch.
Junis was removed after five innings and 87 pitches, allowing one run and five hits while striking out eight, one shy of his career high.
Zobrist led off the fourth with a triple and scored on Junis’ wild pitch.
Cubs relievers Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler and Pedro Strop limited the Royals to one single over the final three innings. Strop earned his eighth save in 11 chances, working a spotless ninth.
The Royals have lost five straight and are tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in the majors at 34-78.
Zobrist, who hit .303 with two home runs in 16 postseason games for the Royals in 2015, was back in Kansas City for the first time since the club won the World Series. He received a standing ovation before his first at-bat.
ROYALS LONG TRIP
The Royals were home for the first time since July 25, after a 3-7, three-city, 11-day trip to New York, Chicago and Minnesota. It included a rainout in New York, which was made up with a day-night doubleheader, plus two rain delays in Minnesota. “It seemed like it was a year,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Cubs: 3B Kris Bryant (left shoulder inflammation) threw before the game for the first since going on the disabled list on July 24. “It was good to get him out there doing some baseball stuff. It was good for him and for his head, too,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “There’s no regress, but there’s no finish lines attached.” … RHPs Brandon Morrow (right biceps inflammation) and Yu Darvish (right triceps tendinitis) played catch before the game. Darvish is scheduled to throw another bullpen session Wednesday.
Royals: OF Brian Goodwin (left groin strain) took batting practice. He is eligible to come off the disabled list Wednesday.
Cubs: LHP Mike Montgomery, who was a 2008 Royals’ first-round pick, starts the middle game of the series.
Royals: Rookie RHP Brad Keller is 3-3 with a 3.90 ERA in 11 starts since moving into the rotation on May 30.