Baez putting on show for Cubs on play­off stage

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Andrew Selig­man

Javier Baez is putting on quite a show for the Chicago Cubs. And he just might be turn­ing these play­offs into his per­sonal stage.

Whether he’s hit­ting a game-win­ning home run or mak­ing some spec­tac­u­lar de­fen­sive play, Baez has been hard to miss in these play­offs. And he’s a big rea­son why the Cubs are in the NL Cham­pi­onship Series for the sec­ond straight year.

“I’ve got a job to do,” Baez said. “I’m not sur­prised. I know what I can do. I know what this team can do. I’m just hav­ing fun right now and ob­vi­ously try­ing to win.”

It must be fun to be Baez these days.

The Cubs came into the post­sea­son with the best record in the ma­jors and their sights set on their first cham­pi­onship since 1908.

They knocked out San Fran­cisco in four games in the NL Di­vi­sion Series in no small part be­cause of Baez’s play at the plate and at sec­ond base. They open the NLCS against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field on Satur­day, and if they take out Los An­ge­les, a fran­chise de­fined more by curses and heart­break will go to the World Series for the first time since 1945.

On a team loaded with stars, Baez has been putting on quite a show in the post­sea­son.

He hit the win­ning home run off Johnny Cueto in the opener against the Giants and the go-ahead sin­gle in the ninth in Game 4.

On de­fense, play­ing mostly sec­ond base, it was as if the Baez high­light reel was on a non­stop loop with no short­age of div­ing stops and light­ning quick tags.

Even when he was chew­ing gum in the dugout Baez man­aged to amaze. Take this gem from Game 4 of the NLDS.

The gum popped out af­ter Baez put it in his mouth, but what hap­pened next was about as im­pres­sive as any play he made in the field. He jug­gled it a few times, fi­nally snagged it with his right hand. Baez pointed at a trainer as he was about to put it back in his mouth, then looked the cam­era, and grinned.

“I saw the cam­era,” Baez said. “I didn’t know if he got it or not, but I caught it.” No sur­prise. Af­ter all, the 23-yearold Baez has been catch­ing just about ev­ery­thing that comes his way this sea­son. And if that’s not enough, he also hit .273 with 14 homers and 59 RBIs in 142 games.

That’s a big jump con­sid­er­ing he struck out 95 times in 213 at-bats .169 af­ter he de­buted for the Cubs in 2014. But his swing is more com­pact now. He closed his stance and cut down the big leg kick he had when he first ar­rived.

Now, he’s look­ing like a break­out star.

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