DENVER -- The Cubs and Rockies had a number of delays in Sunday's series finale -- including Kristopher Bryant's departure and injury checks on Albert Almora Jr. after a pair of athletic catches -- but the oddest was a heated exchange between shortstop Javier Baez and Rockies second baseman DJ
DENVER -- The Cubs and Rockies had a number of delays in Sunday's series finale -- including Kristopher Bryant's departure and injury checks on Albert Almora Jr. after a pair of athletic catches -- but the oddest was a heated exchange between shortstop Javier Baez and Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu in the third inning of the Cubs' 9-7 win.
LeMahieu reached first on a fielder's choice and advanced to second on a Charlie Blackmon single. With Nolan Arenado at the plate, Baez started using his body to block LeMahieu's view of catcher Victor Caratini, whose signals, Baez claimed, were being relayed by LeMahieu to Arenado.
Baez had never tried the tactic before, but he had seen it used against Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
"I don't know if it was the pitch or the location, but they were doing something," Baez said. "I'm 100 percent sure.
"We got to protect our team, our pitchers. This game is hard enough. If they're going to do it, don't do it to our face, because we're going to do something about it."
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LeMahieu denied stealing signs in a text to MLB.com's Thomas Harding.
"We have a good hitting team," LeMahieu said. "Teams think we are stealing signs all the time. We don't steal signs because no one in our lineup wants them. Their [shortstop] was trying to make a big deal out of nothing."
It isn't unusual for a runner on second to try to relay some kind of signal to the hitter, based on what he can see from that angle of the catcher's signs to the pitcher. Some hitters don't want to be distracted by information that might or might not be reliable, but Baez felt the Rockies were using their opportunities to hit Cubs pitching in the Rockies' 5-2 win Saturday, and he didn't want to see it again Sunday.
"Javy did something out there, where necessity is the mother of invention," manager Joe Maddon said. "We're always talking about this technological method of stealing signs. That was old-school. They're trying to give location or signs, and Javy was blocking. I loved it. I've never seen that before. That's some grassroots stuff. You might see that more often.
"Analytics were not involved in that play whatsoever."
Second base umpire Vic Carapazza had to intervene, and some players and coaches stepped in to make sure things didn't escalate.
"He was trying to get us out of it," Baez said of the umpire. "He was doing his job. He told me I have to get out of the way before the pitch was released, which I was doing. So I don't know why he was so hyper saying that.
"It didn't get me out of my game. I don't know what it did to them. It's part of the game."
The tension between Baez and LeMahieu rose after Arenado struck out while Baez effectively blocked LeMahieu's view of the catcher. Baez gloated a little to his teammates and wasn't shy about letting LeMahieu hear him.
"Right after the strikeout, I said to the outfield, 'You see the difference when they don't know the signs?'" Baez said. "And then [LeMahieu] said something. … We won the game, and the series."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver.