Javy bests Reds nemesis for walk-off win

Báez enters off bench, hits first pitch from Garrett to cap Cubs' comeback

July 27th, 2021

CHICAGO -- wasted no time. The Cubs’ star shortstop grabbed a bat, emerged from the dugout and lifted his team to a walk-off win on Monday night, as Wrigley Field shook and trade rumors continued to swirl around the franchise.

Báez ripped the first pitch he saw from Reds closer to deep center field, where the baseball dropped to the grass to give Chicago a 6-5 win in the bottom of the ninth inning. The shortstop walked slowly out of the box, letting out some shouts and eventually slamming his bat to the ground as he made his way up the first-base line.

"That's kind of all you can ask for, as far as a moment in baseball," Cubs infielder said.

Hoerner started the night at shortstop for the Cubs in place of Báez, who was held out due to a bruised left heel sustained in the previous game. Typically, manager David Ross stays away from players in such situations.

There was no denying Báez this moment.

"You guys know Javy," Cubs starter said with a grin. "He's the ultimate gamer. He always wants to be out there, so there was no way of keeping him out of the box."

With one out, the bases loaded and the game caught in a 5-5 deadlock, Reds manager David Bell turned to Garrett with Rafael Ortega due up for Chicago. Inside the Cubs' dugout, Báez already had a helmet on and was pacing back and forth a few steps from Ross.

There is plenty of history between Garrett and Báez, too.

"Just two highly, highly competitive guys," Bell said. "And both very, very good, great baseball players. There’s a lot of emotions in this game, and to me, why add anything more to it? It might just be as simple as that."

Back on May 19, 2019, Báez got heated with the Reds’ lefty and there was a benches-clearing episode in Cincinnati. This season on May 1, Báez leaped over the dugout railing at Great American Ball Park and challenged Garrett to come at him after the pitcher celebrated a strikeout of Anthony Rizzo.

And back on July 4, when the Cubs were in the midst of an 11-game losing streak, Garrett did a sweeping motion on the mound after recording the final out of a 3-2 loss for Chicago.

Neither Báez nor Garrett met with the media via Zoom after the game.

"It is a team sport," Hoerner said. "But the pitcher-hitter, one-on-one confrontation is a very real thing, and especially when there's history like that. It's just that much more special. It's incredibly fun to watch. He's a special player."

Earlier in the night, Rizzo launched a two-run homer in the first and Willson Contreras added a game-tying shot in the eighth. The comeback to pull the game even late happened after word spread that lefty Andrew Chafin had been traded to the A's.

This is a time of uncertainty for the Cubs, who have multiple players -- Rizzo, Báez and Kris Bryant among them -- poised for free agency, making them potential trade chips ahead of Friday's Trade Deadline.

Reality is setting in not only for Cubs fans, but inside the clubhouse.

"If it were to happen," Hendricks said, "I think it's definitely going to be somewhat of a shock and it's going to take a little time to adjust for someone being gone -- whoever it may be.

"There are guys that have been here for a long time and have had a huge impact on this organization."

That includes Báez -- El Mago -- himself. Dating back to the rise of this Cubs core, he has pulled countless tricks out of his bag, helping the franchise erase its 108-year World Series drought and giving fans one of the game's most electric players.

He did it again.

"The bruise on his heel is pretty real," Ross said. "It just worked out that [Báez] was the last piece we had left, and it lined up really nicely."

Báez was spitting sunflower seeds and already barking at Garrett as he stepped into the box. The lefty fired an outside slider, which met the shortstop’s bat and then soared beyond the reach of center fielder Shogo Akiyama to set off a frenzied scene at the Friendly Confines.

As Báez yelled on his walk up the first-base line, he gripped the knob of his bat with his right hand and the barrel with his left. The shortstop then mocked the sweeping motion previously displayed by Garrett.

After slamming the bat to the ground -- Garrett picked it up and tossed it away as an umpire stepped in his path -- Báez motioned for the pitcher to leave the field. He tossed his helmet behind his head, and violently untucked his jersey as teammates arrived to swarm him.

Before leaving the diamond, Báez held both arms wide and then held up one finger.

"One pitch," Hendricks said. "Gets the job done. That's just who he is. I've been so lucky to play with him and see the unbelievable things he does."