Javier Baez is heating up – and the Cubs offense looks poised to dominate.
In their last three contests, the Chicago Cubs have hung 25 runs on opposing pitching – which, when paired with overpowering starting pitching and in despite of shoddy bullpen showings – has culminated in three consecutive wins and a big league-best 4-1 record heading into Wednesday’s action.
As a team, Chicago boasts an .845 OPS as a team – tops among all MLB clubs. That number is boosted by a .500 team slugging percentage which, after his showing on Tuesday, Javier Baez plays a big part in.
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El Mago collected a double and a pair of home runs in the Cubs’ 8-5 win over the Reds at Great American Ballpark – finally breaking through after several days of hard contact. This should come as a surprise to no one who’s been watching. In fact, Baez leads all Cubs hitters in average exit velocity, narrowly edging out Willson Contreras by a 96.1 to 96.0 MPH margin.
Baez entered the game in a 3-for-17 slump. Now, four games into a season that usually isn’t enough to draw concern – but in a 60-game sprint, every at-bat means more than ever. The two-time All-Star followed Anthony Rizzo’s daily pregame advice and, once again, dazzled us all.
Chicago Cubs: “Do that thing that everybody loves.”
Before every game, Anthony Rizzo tells Baez, “Do that thing everybody loves.” On Tuesday, it’s hard to tell what Cubs fans loved more: the sliding play in the hole that looked effortless, his slide to get around a tag on a play at the plate or his three extra-base hits. Regardless, it’s a very good sign for a Chicago team that is firing on all cylinders offensively.
The Cubs have feasted in recent days – led by Rizzo, Contreras and a supporting cast that has continually come up with big knocks for first-year skipper David Ross. And they’ve done so without virtually any production from leadoff hitter and former NL Rookie of the Year and MVP Kris Bryant, who carries an abysmal .158 OBP on the year.
As Ross noted after the game, when Baez is making the magic happen, it’s contagious for others. Even Thom Brennaman, who has no love for the North Siders, noted this in Tuesday’s broadcast.
“You can hate the Cubs. It makes no difference. But you’ve got to give it up to a team that’s showing this kind of fire and passion and enthusiasm that they are showing. There’s a lot of guys down there making tens of millions of dollars a year and they’re coming to the ballpark like they are playing for a high school team. And I don’t say that in a negative way in any form or fashion. In fact, it’s a compliment. And I’m sure a lot of people will get upset for me saying something nice about the Cubs but it is what it is.”
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Playing with passion, fire and enthusiasm is what Baez has built his legacy on. And now that he’s getting results at the dish – watch out. This 4-1 start may just be the beginning for a Cubs team ready to leave their mark on an unorthodox 2020 Major League Baseball season.