CHICAGO -- See Javy hit. See Javy run. See Javy create havoc on the bases once again.Javier Baez provided the spark Wednesday night, hitting a pair of home runs for the second straight game and scoring the tiebreaking run in the sixth inning after some heads-up baserunning to help the
CHICAGO -- See Javy hit. See Javy run. See Javy create havoc on the bases once again.
Javier Baez provided the spark Wednesday night, hitting a pair of home runs for the second straight game and scoring the tiebreaking run in the sixth inning after some heads-up baserunning to help the Cubs post a 13-5 victory over the Pirates.
"There's not a lot of things he can't do," Cubs pitcher Jonathan Lester said of Baez. "Obviously he does it with a lot of flair. It's fun to watch, it really is."
Baez, who hit a pair of solo homers on Tuesday, belted his third of the season in the second when he connected on a 3-1 pitch from Pirates starter Steven Brault to take a 4-3 lead.
• Baez blast gets bullpen in dancing mood
"Steven had the 3-0 swing from Baez on a changeup down, then we get a fastball up and he hits a three-run homer," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's all part of the hard learning curve up here at times."
The Pirates tied the game at 4 on Francisco Cervelli's RBI single in the fifth, but Baez answered in an adventurous sixth. He struck out to open the inning yet reached first on a wild pitch by Pirates reliever Tyler Glasnow. Baez then advanced on a groundout by Jason Heyward and stole third.
The Pirates brought the infield in, and pinch-hitter Thomas La Stella hit a chopper to second baseman Josh Harrison, who double pumped before he threw home. Baez slid in safely to give the Cubs a 5-4 lead.
"I went a little late on that," Baez said of his dash home. "I was going on contact. I saw the ball. I was paying attention for the ball in the dirt. It kind of caught me in-between, but I scored."
He wasn't the only one. Kristopher Bryant hit a pair of RBI doubles, Benjamin Zobrist added a two-run single and Ian Happ gave the Cubs a cushion with a two-run pinch-hit homer in the seventh, his first since Opening Day.
But as much fun as Baez is having scampering around the bases, he also is maturing as a ballplayer. He popped up in the seventh and threw his bat.
"You know what I learned today? How ugly I looked on that fly ball," said Baez, who also announced his engagement on social media on Wednesday. "I tossed the bat really high, I didn't run to first base. One of my teammates came up to me [in the dugout] and he said it in a good way and you learn from it.
"After I hit that fly ball that I tossed the bat really high, I was kind of mad about it, not because of the fly ball but just the way I looked, for the kids and everybody who follow me," he said. "That's not a good thing. I learned that from today."
What Cubs manager Joe Maddon has learned watching Baez is that he's one of the most exciting players in the game today.
"You're going to go scout, watch guys run the bases and they'll tell you what they're instincts are like in the game of baseball," Maddon said. "[Good players] see things. It's like a good running back. ... He's among the best I've ever seen or ever had."
Baez also is providing some power. He's the first Cubs player to post consecutive multi-homer games since Alfonso Soriano did so May 16-17, 2008, and the first player to do so in the Major Leagues this season.
"I've been working on focusing on me and the pitcher out there and forget about the whole field, everything really, launch angle, the models of the bat," Baez said. "I cleared my mind and it's all about competing. That's how I've been taking it. You're seeing it's been great for me."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Sean gone: The Pirates jumped on Lester in the second. With one out, David Freese singled to center and Gregory Polanco walked to set up Rodriguez's home run. Rodriguez entered the game 11-for-48 against Lester with two homers and 20 strikeouts. He launched an 0-1 sinker 422 feet to center.
"Pittsburgh is hot right now," Maddon said. "[Lester] didn't have bad stuff. The home run, that's the pitch, that's the three points right there. He might have gone six innings [if he didn't give that up]."
Lester was upset about the three walks he gave up.
"I can deal with making mistakes and giving up home runs if we don't walk people to get to that mistake to give up the home run," Lester said. "If they string hits together and hit a three-run homer, you tip your hat. If you're allowing extra baserunners based on free passes, that's where for me, I'm beating myself and not allowing them to beat me."
Javy stays red hot: The Cubs loaded the bases in the second when Zobrist reached on a bunt single, Addison Russell doubled and Victor Caratini was hit by a pitch. Zobrist then scored on a wild pitch during Baez's at-bat. Baez smacked a 3-1 fastball from Brault for his third homer of the season to take a 4-3 lead. According to Statcast™, the ball sailed a projected 434 feet.
"A lot of people say I've got a little power, but to be honest, the pitcher makes the power with the velocity," Baez said. "I'm a guy who is really strong with my legs. My swing starts with my legs pushing forward. … I'm trying to stay under control but it's really hard for me. As long as I stay under control, I'll be really good."
"As he matures as a hitter, I have no idea what he's going to do because he is one of the more exciting players in the game now." -- Maddon, on Baez
"I'll let somebody else explain it. It's a funny story from the hitting coach. When we get a base hit, we do something good, so we have to pat our guys on the back." -- Baez, on why the Cubs players pat themselves on the back after they get on base
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Cubs totaled seven doubles and three home runs in the game for the first time since Aug. 18, 1995, at Colorado. All eight starting position players recorded a hit.
Kyle Hendricks will close the Cubs' series against the Pirates on Thursday. This will be Hendricks' first start at Wrigley Field for the season. The right-hander does not have a decision in his first two outings. In his last game, he served up multiple homers for the seventh time in 101 career starts in a loss to the Brewers. Last season, Hendricks was 4-3 with a 3.20 ERA at Wrigley Field, and posted a 2.83 ERA on the road. First pitch is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. CT.
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Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.