CHICAGO -- On one side there was the seasoned postseason pitcher the Cubs pursued two winters ago with the vision that he could get this franchise to where it hadn't been in decades. On the other was a second baseman who has used this October stage to emerge as one of the game's rising stars.
And together, Jon Lester and Javier Báez hoisted the MVP trophy, having been named as co-recipients for their performances in this National League Championship Series that the Cubs closed out with a 5-0 win over the Dodgers on Saturday.
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"Amazing. Amazing," Baez said, as fans chanted his name around him. "It's crazy living this life right now."
Before this postseason began, Baez was a raw talent without a set position. His defensive ability earned Baez a start at second base in the Cubs' first postseason game, one that he then won with an eighth-inning home run. He hasn't left the Cubs' lineup since.
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In this six-game NLCS, Baez hit .318 with four doubles, five RBIs and two stolen bases. His three-hit game in Game 5 helped the Cubs to a win that gave them a series edge coming home for Game 6. With 13 hits in the team's 10 playoff games, Baez, 23, has already climbed to third on the franchise list for most hits in a single postseason.
And then there are the defensive gems, of which Baez contributed several to help the Cubs dispatch the Dodgers.
"Javy has been unbelievable," teammate Dexter Fowler said. "He's a diamond in the rough. He makes plays. He plays hard. He loves the game."
While Baez introduced his talents to a broader audience in this series, Lester merely reminded how great a postseason resume he has built by the age of 32. Having already won a pair of World Series rings in Boston, Lester came to Chicago to try to do the same for a franchise thirsty for such success.
Lester allowed two runs over 13 innings while striking out the same number of batters (nine) that he allowed hits to. His performances helped the Cubs to wins in Games 1 and 5. Chicago never trailed in either of his NLCS starts.
"It's unbelievable," Lester said as he soaked in the champagne celebration going on around him. "This is why they signed me. This is why they wanted me to come here, to win a World Series. This is why I wanted to come here. I wanted to win a World Series for this city, for this organization, for this ownership and front office. It's awesome to be a part of this organization and be where we're at right now."
Lester and Baez become the first co-NLCS MVPs since 1990, when Cincinnati's Rob Dibble and Randy Myers shared the honors.
"It's unbelievable just to be considered," Lester said. "It's something you never expect. There's a ton of guys on this team who deserve this award. To be honored is humbling and at the same time very rewarding."