CHICAGO -- There are certain players who you don't want to miss when they're at the plate. Javier Baez is someone you don't want to miss whenever he's on the diamond, and especially when he's on base.
"It never gets old watching him play baseball," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
Baez pulled another magic trick out of his hat on Wednesday, stealing home for the second time this season in the Cubs' 5-2 win over the Twins.
In the fourth inning, it appeared as if Detroit starter Francisco Liriano had Baez picked off at first, but Baez stole second, then scampered to third on an error by first baseman John Hicks, whose throw sailed into left. Baez considered going home but stopped at third. Not for long, though.
After Addison Russell walked, Liriano made a pickoff attempt to first. Baez took advantage of the move and stole home, the fourth time in his career and third time in the regular season he's done so. Baez needed to use a swim move to reach around Tigers catcher James McCann and touch the plate.
"At first, I was going first move," Baez said. "As soon as I got to third, I was ready on the first pitch trying to go. [Liriano] was taking forever to pick and he got a quick one, too. I didn't want to be the first out at the plate. I was kind of in-between. I just went for it, and the swim move again worked. I'll take that."
"You don't want to miss him on the bases," Maddon said of Baez. "Every time he's out there, something seems to be going on. They pick him off and he's safe and ends up at third base. Then he scores on a throw to first base. He should've been out, but the slide was extraordinary."
There's no sign from the dugout. The Cubs worked on the play in Spring Training, and it's up to the players to recognize when the situation is right.
"It's almost impossible to teach those things," Maddon said. "You can suggest it or go through it in Spring Training, but guys have to be bold enough and recognize it in the moment to do those things, which he does. He's different. As he continues to ascend offensively, that's been the last thing. Defense, arm, baserunning, it's all been there. Now you look at the numbers he's throwing up there offensively, that's what makes him an elite baseball player."
Baez is the first player in franchise history with at least 20 doubles, five triples, 15 home runs and 60 RBIs before the All-Star break. He should be in Washington on July 17 for the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard, but maybe Major League Baseball can come up with a different category for him to show off his talents.
"Baseball instincts," Russell said. "He has mad baseball instincts. He's fun to watch, fun to be a part of and he works hard."
In the latest fan balloting update, Baez was third among National League second basemen. Maddon is hoping his infielder is picked.
"Who's more exciting to watch than he is?" Maddon said. "I love [Francisco] Lindor. I think they're kindred spirits in the way they play the game. There's others, [Carlos] Correa with Houston and others. [Baez] is in that top 10, kind of part of the Rat Pack from back in the day. You had to go to Vegas to see him. He's one of those guys -- he sashayed in with [Frank] Sinatra and the boys. That's how he plays baseball."
Maddon has encouraged Baez's fearlessness since the manager arrived.
"When Joe got here, that's one of the first things he said -- 'If you feel sexy, wear it,'" Baez said. "Everybody here is like that. Everybody dresses like whatever they feel like wearing and being here, obviously being on time and playing hard is the most important thing for us."
Is it sexy to steal home?
"Yes it is," Baez said.