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Baez steals home on pickoff attempt

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

NEW YORK -- The Cubs' Javier Baez did his magic trick again in the seventh in Sunday's 2-0 win over the Mets at Citi Field. 

Baez singled to open the inning against the Mets' Steven Matz and reached third on Willson Contreras' single. Then, poof. On a 1-1 pitch during Ian Happ's at-bat, both Contreras and Baez were on the run, with Baez stealing home.

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NEW YORK -- The Cubs' Javier Baez did his magic trick again in the seventh in Sunday's 2-0 win over the Mets at Citi Field. 

Baez singled to open the inning against the Mets' Steven Matz and reached third on Willson Contreras' single. Then, poof. On a 1-1 pitch during Ian Happ's at-bat, both Contreras and Baez were on the run, with Baez stealing home.

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The Cubs work on the play in Spring Training and the moon and the stars aligned just right to make it work.

"It doesn't happen often that the world is set up the proper way for it to occur and absolutely everything was in place right there," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.

For example, the Mets had a lefty on the mound in Matz, who had his back to Baez. Contreras was able to take a big lead at first.

"It's stuff that we look for and everything was set up right today," Maddon said.

Baez recognized the elements were there.

"First move to the plate. [Matz] can't see me," Baez said. "I was just seeing how high he was going with the leg. The first move, if he would go to the plate, I would come back to third base. He kind of took his time to go to first. I just went for it. I'm glad I made it."

Contreras said Baez gave him a sign to take a bigger lead at first.

"[Baez] has the best instincts as a baserunner and a player," Contreras said. "He's great for this team."

Video: CHC@NYM: Cubs put their speed on display in the 7th

Contreras did remember practicing the move in Mesa, Ariz.

"I think it's the first time we've tried it and executed it this season," Contreras said.

Baez has stolen home before, including Game 1 of the 2016 National League Championship Series. It was his second swipe of home during the regular season -- he also did so Aug. 30, 2017, against the Pirates. He is one of only nine active players with more than one career steal of home. 

Video: Must C Crafty: Baez's historic steal of home

Baez was busy defensively, too, as he and Tommy La Stella traded places throughout the game. Baez started at third and La Stella at second, but against a left-handed batter, Baez and La Stella would switch places. When the Mets had a right-handed hitter at the plate, Baez trotted over to third and La Stella was at second.

"I wanted Javy where the highest probability was," Maddon said. "Ball on the ground, we wanted to make sure we were protected."

All the switching kept the scorekeepers busy as they tracked their positions, but through five innings, neither infielder had a single play.

In the Mets' sixth, Ben Zobrist entered at second base and Baez moved to shortstop, replacing Addison Russell, who had to leave because of a sprained left middle finger. Cubs starter Jon Lester had not given up a hit at that point and the Mets' first knock came in the sixth when catcher Kevin Plawecki bounced a grounder past Baez.

Video: CHC@NYM: Plawecki singles for the Mets' 1st hit

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Javier Baez