PITTSBURGH — Javy Baez is called “El Mago” for a reason, as the Pirates learned the hard way in the Cubs’ 5-3 victory.
Baez has been known to do some amazing things on a field, but leave it to him to turn what normally would be an easy out into an adventure for the opposing defense.
“You can see different stuff in baseball,” Baez said. “You never stop learning different things in baseball.”
After hitting a sharp grounder to third base with two outs in the third inning, Baez ran toward first base. But after the throw from Erik Gonzalez was offline, Baez stopped in his tracks and retreated toward the plate.
“Let’s say I improvise,” he said. “I can react pretty fast to things like contact and stuff. I’m pretty good at tagging and not letting people tag me.”
First baseman Will Craig had a mental lapse, forgetting he could have stepped on the bag to end the inning, and chased the Cubs shortstop.
Catcher Willson Contreras, who was on second base, advanced to third and raced home as Baez got himself into a rundown. As Baez approached the batter’s box, Contreras slid in and scored, beating the toss home.
“I’ve never seen it,” starter Kyle Hendricks said. “I don’t think you’ll ever see it again.”
After celebrating Contreras’ scoring in mid-play, Baez realized no one was occupying first base and beat the nearest Pirate to the bag, even forcing a throwing error to reach second base. He would score on Ian Happ’s single.
“Only Javy disappears on the basepaths more than any person I’ve seen,” manager David Ross said. “It really is a magic act. He just creates havoc, man.”
Hendricks wins his third in row
It was only a matter of time before Hendricks returned to form. He kept his strong May going with another quality start.
Hendricks tossed seven innings, winning his third consecutive start and fourth in his last five.
During the right-hander’s recent run of success, he has been able to get himself into a rhythm and stay there. On Thursday, Hendricks did it again, allowing one hit through three innings.
After back-to-back homers by Bryan Reynolds and Gregory Polanco, Hendricks limited the damage and made it through the seventh, finishing with five strikeouts and no walks.
Hendricks is 4-1 in May with a 2.67 ERA, three walks and 47 strikeouts.
“I’ve got to be a little bit better mentally,” Hendricks said. “I was making good pitches, just got a little bit lazy mentally. I just need to lock it in just a touch more.”