MILWAUKEE -- Javier Baez seems able to do whatever he wants on the basepaths, and the Cubs' infielder took advantage of two errors by the Brewers to score in the second inning of Chicago's 8-0 victory Thursday night.
Baez had hit a two-run single with one out in the second, and Jonathan Lester then hit a ball up the middle that just missed pitcher Brent Suter. Second baseman Hernan Perez overran the ball for an error and center fielder Lorenzo Cain did the same, eventually scooping it up and throwing home. The throw wasn't in time, and Baez slid home, then checked with home plate umpire Brian O'Nora to confirm he was safe.
"We've seen that before," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Baez's scampering skills. "He's got eyes in the back of his head. He'll make a great parent. He just knows what's going on. When he does that, it doesn't surprise, not at all."
It didn't surprise Lester either.
"Javy never ceases to amaze people with what he's able to do on the basepaths, let alone everything else," Lester said. "He's always going to play the game aggressively, and it's always going to work out for us. I think the slide was more impressive than him reading that ball and getting home. That's always a nice thing to have on your side."
According to Statcast™, Baez's sprint speed was 28.6 feet per second, well above the Major League average of 27 feet per second (and quicker than his average sprint speed last year of 28.3 feet per second). His third-to-home baserunning sprint was 3.52 seconds. The spurt might have contributed to Cain's error.
"I had a good jump and the ball took a little bit to get to him and he speeded up a little bit," Baez said. "Right before I stepped on third base, I turned and [Cain] bobbled the ball, so I kept going. They let me run the bases how I want to. I obviously have fun out there. If you pay attention to where you need to be and wherever the sign's coming from, you know everything. At that moment, I was reacting to the play and hustling down the line."
So, the Cubs don't have a stop sign for Baez?
"Yeah, there is, in situations, especially in my situation," said Baez, who was batting eighth. "I have the pitcher hitting behind me most of the time. I don't want to run with two outs and have the pitcher be the leadoff guy. I'm aggressive and as long as I can be aggressive, I will be."
Baez was just checking with O'Nora to make sure the run counted.
"I didn't know if he called out or safe," Baez said. "I was looking to the dugout to make sure I was safe."
The Cubs opened a 3-0 lead in the second inning en route to a series-opening victory over the Brewers, who were charged with three errors for the second straight game.
"When you make mistakes on defense and the other team takes advantage, it normally does hit you in the solar plexus a bit," Maddon said. "Javy's had that kind of experience on the bases. He's always heads up. If you watch him, he'll look behind as he's running to see what's going on. Going back in the day, you'd see [Willie] Mays do that a lot. [Baez] has got extraordinary instincts on the bases."