“Let’s say I improvise,” Baez said. “I’m pretty good at tagging and not letting people tag me.”
PITTSBURGH — Javy Baez isn’t called “El Mago” for no reason and the Pirates learned the hard way in the Cubs’ 5-3 win.
Baez has been known to do some amazing things on a field, but leave it to him to turn what would normally be an easy out into an adventure for an opposing defense.
“I think you can see different stuff in baseball,” Baez said. “You never stop learning different things in baseball.”
After hitting a sharp ground ball to third base with two outs in the third inning, Baez began to run toward first base. But after the throw from third base was offline, Baez stopped in his tracks and started to retreat toward the plate.
“Let’s say I improvise,” he said. “I can react pretty fast to things like contact and stuff. … I’m pretty good at tagging and not letting people tag me.”
Pirates first baseman Will Craig had a mental lapse, forgetting he could have stepped on the bag to end the inning and proceeded to run after the Cubs’ shortstop.
Catcher Willson Contreras, who was on second base, advanced to third and started to race home as Baez got himself into a rundown. As Baez approached the batter’s box, Contreras slid in and scored, beating the throw home.
“I’ve never seen it,” starter Kyle Hendricks said. “I don’t think you’ll ever see it again.”
After celebrating Contreras scoring mid-play, Baez realized there was no one occupying first base and beat the nearest Pirates defender to first, even forcing a throwing error to reach second base. He would score on the next play on Ian Happ’s RBI single.
“Only Javy disappears on the basepaths more than any person I’ve seen,” manager David Ross said. “It really is a magic act. He just creates havoc, man.”
Hendricks keeps it rolling, wins third straight
It was only a matter of time before Hendricks returned to form and the Cubs right-hander kept his strong month of May going with another good start.
Hendricks tossed seven innings in the Cubs’ win over the Pirates, winning his third consecutive start and fourth in his last five.
During his recent run of success, he’s been able to get himself into a rhythm and stay there. On Thursday, Hendricks did that, allowing one hit through his first three innings.
Even after back-to-back homers by Bryan Reynolds and Gregory Polanco, Hendricks limited the damage and made it through seven innings, finishing the game with five strikeouts and no walks.
Hendricks is now 4-1 in May with a 2.67 ERA with three walks and 47 strikeouts.
“I just got to be a little bit better mentally,” Hendricks said. “Physically, I was making good pitches, just got a little bit lazy mentally. … Going forward, I just need to lock it in just a touch more, have better intent on the pitches I’m trying to throw pitch-to-pitch and go from there.”