LOS ANGELES -- Joe Maddon first met Javier Baez in Puerto Rico when the infielder was playing winter ball and Maddon had just been named Cubs manager. Maddon had seen Baez smack the ball to the opposite field but knew he also had a "John Daly hack" when the infielder
LOS ANGELES -- Joe Maddon first met Javier Baez in Puerto Rico when the infielder was playing winter ball and Maddon had just been named Cubs manager. Maddon had seen Baez smack the ball to the opposite field but knew he also had a "John Daly hack" when the infielder would swing so hard, he'd fall over.
"I've been saying it for a couple years, the moment he stops swinging at sliders in the dirt, he becomes Manny Ramirez," Maddon said. "He's getting closer, except I think he's a better defender than Manny was -- and a baserunner.
"There isn't anything [Baez] can't do. He has his head on a swivel, he sees things other guys don't. That was a spectacular game he had tonight."
Baez provided the power and some magic on Tuesday night, collecting four hits, including a solo homer and a grand slam, and driving in five runs to power the Cubs to a 9-4 victory over the Dodgers that snapped a five-game losing streak.
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
Jonathan Lester, pitching at Dodger Stadium for the first time since Game 2 of last year's National League Championship Series, won his sixth straight start and is now tied with the Nationals' Max Scherzer for the NL lead with 10 wins.
Baez was the star. He doubled in the first, singled in the third, hit a solo homer in the fifth off Thomas Stripling and added a grand slam in the sixth off Edward Parades for his fourth career multihomer game and first since April 11 against the Pirates. The four hits matched a career high, and it was his fourth career grand slam. He leads the Cubs with 56 RBIs and 16 homers.
"I kind of threw the kitchen sink at him and he hit it all, so I'm not sure [how to get Baez out]," said Stripling, against whom Baez is 5-for-5 with a homer and three doubles this season. "We'll have to hopefully play him in October and get him out then."
It's not just what Baez is doing at the plate that is must see, his defensive skills also shine.
"There's a couple guys like that in Major League Baseball -- [Francisco] Lindor is another guy like that, [Ozzie] Albies, the new kid in Atlanta," Maddon said. "There's two things that set them apart beyond their abilities -- they really enjoy playing, there's a joy about them, and they're absolutely fearless. Of course, you have to be good. Fearlessness and pure joy for the game stands out.
"[Baez] is a perfect example of what Major League Baseball needs to highlight."
Baez started at third base in place of Kristopher Bryant, who was placed on the disabled list before the game because of a inflammation in his left shoulder. Whether he plays second, short or third, it doesn't seem to matter to Baez, who was solid at the hot corner and helped turn a smart double play in the second to squash a potential Dodgers rally.
The Cubs had been outscored, 33-14, during the five-game skid, and hitting coach Chili Davis called a players meeting prior to Tuesday's game. Whatever he told them kicked in during the six-run sixth.
What was the topic?
"We like to talk, even without meetings," Baez said. "We get together and talk about situations and plays and other stuff. It was helpful, for sure.
"We talked about hitting and passing it to the next guy and taking our walks when we need to. Simple stuff."
Trailing, 2-1, with one out in the sixth, the Cubs got some help when right fielder Yasiel Puig muffed Ian Happ's fly ball. That helped set up RBI singles by Addison Russell and Benjamin Zobrist before Baez launched the first pitch from Paredes 407 feet to left. According to Statcast™, the homer had an exit velocity of 110 mph.
This was the Cubs' first win at Dodger Stadium, including postseason contests, since Game 5 of the 2016 NLCS, snapping an eight-game skid at Chavez Ravine.
How much does Baez like playing in L.A.?
"I don't like the traffic," Baez said. "I love it here. These fans are pretty close to ours. I like playing here. I like the energy they have for their team. We're always going to compete. This is a team we'll see for a long time. It's always going to be good competition."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Javy's heads-up play:Cody Bellinger hit an RBI single with one out in the Dodgers' second off Lester and ended up at third after an errant throw by center fielder Happ. Puig then helped the Cubs when he hit a grounder to Baez at third. Bellinger was tagged out in a rundown by Baez, who then threw to first to get Puig, who was off the bag after making a move toward second well after first-base coach George Lombard motioned for him to advance during Bellinger's rundown.
"[Puig] took two steps. I saw him take two steps to second base after he passed first base," Baez said. "I just went for it to get him."
"I didn't realize there was a play at first and I don't think anybody knew there was a play at first," Lester said. "That goes back to Javy being Javy. He's probably my favorite player to watch.
"The athleticism and the ability to play all three infield positions and do it at a high level, that's hard to do. In that situation, that's a weird double play, but I'll take it."
Baez's grand slam was the first by a Cubs player at Dodger Stadium since Bill Madlock did so off Don Sutton on Aug. 28, 1974. Those two are the only Cubs slams at Chavez Ravine.
"I thought he was going to throw me a first-pitch slider," Baez said of the slam. "I reacted to it and I hit it pretty hard."
HE SAID IT
"A win during the regular season is always good, don't get me wrong. I'm not splitting hairs here. We've got to beat them in the postseason. That's a good team. I'm sure we'll probably see them if we get to that position like we have the last two years. That's a good team, a solid team. ... That'll be the test, in the postseason, not now." -- Lester, on the Dodgers
Kyle Hendricks will start Wednesday in the third game of this four-game series. He's coming off a loss to the Reds in which he gave up four runs over 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander last faced the Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLCS and lost. He's 2-2 with a 4.78 ERA in seven road starts. The Dodgers will counter with lefty Alex Wood. First pitch is scheduled for 9:10 p.m. CT.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.