PHILADELPHIA -- When the season began, Cubs star Javier Baez didn't set offensive goals."Just staying healthy is good enough for me," Baez said. "I lost a few years because of] injuries. I don't like being out. That's my biggest goal this year."He's been healthy and more. On Sunday, Baez joined
PHILADELPHIA -- When the season began, Cubs star Javier Baez didn't set offensive goals.
"Just staying healthy is good enough for me," Baez said. "I lost a few years [because of] injuries. I don't like being out. That's my biggest goal this year."
He's been healthy and more. On Sunday, Baez joined an exclusive club, hitting his 30th home run and notching his 100th RBI with one swing. Baez homered with one out in the sixth inning off Philies ace Aaron Nola in the Cubs' 8-1 victory at Citizens Bank Park. Baez leads the National League in RBIs, and his name is being mentioned more and more in NL MVP conversations.
"I'm thankful for everything I've done this year," Baez said. "I'm just happy for all the RBIs. It's like [Anthony Rizzo] told me, 'I'm not surprised about the homers, I'm surprised about the RBIs,' and it's true. We know what we can do if we do good. It's really impressive that I got 100 RBIs and I feel great about it."
The Cubs appreciate it.
"It's nice to see him put it all together and have a good year for us on both sides of the ball," Chicago's Jonathan Lester said. "He's definitely a key component to our lineup. I'm glad he's on our side. It's impressive to watch."
"I don't know that we predicted that before the year began," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said on Sunday about Baez's impressive stats. "I think you predicted a good year but this is above and beyond being an All-Star, being an MVP candidate. I couldn't have told you that before the year began. I thought he'd have a good year but this is above and beyond."
Baez's previous career highs? Last year, he hit 23 home runs and drove in 75 runs.
But Maddon is even more impressed with what Baez does at second base or shortstop or third base or wherever he is on the field.
"People don't talk about his leadership qualities on the field," Maddon said. "You watch him and he's directing traffic all the time, creating havoc on the bases. The play he made last night on [Roman Quinn in the fifth], how about that? Not many guys make that play. I don't care how long you've been playing shortstop, how good you are, that guy running, moving out of the box as he's swinging the ball, the way [Baez] came in and backhanded it and the throw with the accuracy and velocity -- those are the kind of things that will get recognized but not recognized enough. That was leading off an inning and if he had not made that play, could've led to a different result in the game. It was pretty good stuff."
Cubs second baseman Daniel Murphy was dazzled by Baez's play on Quinn as well.
"I started thinking, 'There's three people on this planet who could make this play, and I got a front-row seat to see one of them,'" Murphy said.
Baez is the fourth Cubs middle infielder to record a 30-homer, 100-RBI season, joining Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Ernie Banks and Ryne Sandberg. Baez is also the fifth Cubs player to before reach those marks before or in their age-25 season, joining Banks (1955), Kristopher Bryant (2016), Anthony Rizzo (2015) and Ron Santo (1964, '65).
The shortstop connected on a 92.3-mph fastball from Nola, who also served up solo homers on Sunday to Murphy and Rizzo.
"The biggest difference is -- and it's still not complete yet -- but he's staying off bad pitches more consistently," Maddon said of the changes Baez has made this season. "You have to throw the ball over the plate to get him out more now than you had in the last couple years. Otherwise, the game is the same. My thought is the moment he starts laying off the slider down and away, he becomes Manny Ramirez. I don't think that's a stretch."
There are still four weeks to go in the regular season for Baez to add to his stellar numbers.
"This is when I have to slow everything down and let the ball get deep in the zone and let it come to me," Baez said. "I've done a lot this season. I've got no pressure now. It's up to me to keep doing what I'm doing and keep making my adjustments."
There is one goal he'd like to achieve besides staying in the lineup -- Baez wants to win a Gold Glove one day. The trouble is, he plays everywhere on the infield for an award that is based on a single position.
"I know," he said with a smile. "It's tough."
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.