CHICAGO -- Manager Joe Maddon was hoping Javier Baez could provide a spark at the top of the lineup, and the Cubs' second baseman did just that in the first inning of Thursday's eventual 8-5 win over the Cardinals.
Baez tripled with one out in the first, lining the ball into the gap in right-center, then scored on Kristopher Bryant's single to tie the game at 1. He hit a single in his second at-bat as part of a four-run second that helped put the Cubs ahead, 6-1.
Baez has racked up his share of extra-base hits. He has 14 hits this season, and only three are singles.
"I wanted to get some energy at the top," Maddon said about why he moved Baez up. "He's been doing well. I could have left him at six or seven [in the order]. I'm just shuffling the chairs up a little. There's nothing brilliant about it whatsoever. It's just to provide some energy at the top of the batting order."
"That's good to know," Baez said when told about Maddon's motives. "I was trying to stay focused on the same approach, same swings. I didn't get excited, but that's one of my goals is to end up there in the lineup. I feel great, I'm still seeing the ball really good. I chased a few pitches today, but I took good at-bats."
Baez has shown the ability to use the whole field more, which has helped his offense.
"He might take that out-of-control swing, but then he comes back to reality," Maddon said. "I think he's making in-at-bat adjustments. The moment he stops laying off the down-and-away slider, he'll become Manny Ramirez."
Baez wasn't ready to put himself on that level -- and acknowledged that he has things to work on.
"I've been hitting good," Baez said. "I haven't been playing good defense. I have to go back and work on my defense and keep doing the same things at the plate."
He nearly collided with first baseman Anthony Rizzo chasing Harrison Bader's popup in the third inning. Neither caught the ball, and Baez was charged with an error.
"That's me -- it was his ball," Baez said. "I didn't call the ball. At the last second, I thought he lost the ball and I just went for it and we didn't talk. We're both really good at fly balls. I just went for it because I thought he lost it."
Baez finished the Cubs' seven-game homestand with two doubles, one triple, five home runs, nine runs scored and 12 RBIs. That's a good start.
"The guy's an exciting ballplayer," Chicago's Kyle Schwarber said of Baez. "I feel we're always talking about Javy Baez. I'm not going to get tired of it. He's a heck of a ballplayer and a lot of instincts and he's a leader and he's fun to watch."