Báez makes jaw-dropping tag: 'I practice this'

August 4th, 2020

CHICAGO -- As soon as the baseball left Willson Contreras' fingertips, the Cubs' catcher assumed that Adalberto Mondesi was going to be safe. That was before El Mago performed his latest trick.

In the fourth inning of the Cubs' 2-0 win over the Royals, shortstop flashed one of his famous no-look tags for a jaw-dropping out to escape the frame. Kansas City had to see it to believe it, but opted not to challenge the call after quickly reviewing the footage.

"Believe it or not," Báez said, "I practice this."

With two outs and Brett Phillips batting in a scoreless game, Mondesi sprinted for second base on a 1-1 changeup from righty Alec Mills. The pitch tailed low and away, putting Contreras in a tough situation as the fleet-footed runner closed in on a stolen base.

According to Statcast, Mondesi hit a sprint speed of 28.9 feet per second on his run to second, and Contreras unleashed an 83.1 mph throw after an exchange of 0.80 seconds. What Statcast can't tell you is how Báez pulled it off. The shortstop did his best to explain.

"You've got to have a plan," Báez said. "I know my angles. I know where the runner's coming from. And, you know, it depends on the throw. I let the ball get really deep to the bag, pretty close to the bag."

That last part is what was so important on this play.

As Báez positioned himself in front of second base, he put his left foot in a spot where Mondesi had to veer slightly to the right of the bag. The runner still attempted to slide in feet first as the throw from Contreras arrived.

Báez reached back, allowing the baseball to travel farther. When the ball smacked into the shortstop's glove, it was already on Mondesi's right hip.

"The transition wasn't good and it took time to throw the ball to second," Contreras said. "I thought the runner was going to be safe, because the runner got a great jump. But I was able to make a nice throw and Javy was able to make a great tag.

"So, that's a good combination right there."