I’m sitting here watching the Cubs and Pirates game on Thursday, with the North Siders leading, one-to-nil, and looking at a potential three-game sweep. Suddenly I do not believe what my eyes just saw.
Chicago catcher Willson Contreras is on second with two outs. Javier Baez hits what looks to be an inning-ending ground ball to third. The throw from Erik Gonzalez pulls the inexperienced first baseman, Will Craig, toward home. He decides to just tag the approaching Baez. That’s when the Cubs shortstop assumes his secret identity: El Mago!
Cubs: Watch carefully because you’ll never see this again
Baez begins to retreat back toward home, glancing at Contreras who is rounding third. Baez keeps retreating with Craig following. As the Cubs backstop is nearing home, Craig sees him and by now, only a few feet from his catcher Perez, flips the ball to him to get Contreras, who slides under the tag to score. Meanwhile, Baez switches gears and starts tearing toward first.
The throw from Perez goes over the head of the man covering first, second baseman Adam Frazier, who was late getting to the bag. Baez gets to first and, seeing the error, heads for second, sliding in just ahead of the throw from Gregory Polanco in right field, which is missed by the shortstop.
Perhaps prophetically, the man who started it all, Gonzalez, tracks down the errant throw.
As the Pirates announcers noted, the play went 5-to-3-to-2-to-9-to-5, one run had scored and no one was out. It was like a Little League double!!
The next Cubs batter, Ian Happ, muscles a little bloop into shallow right and Baez comes around to score. That’s two runs stolen from the Pirates in broad daylight. But for me, the most amazing thing about that play was Baez waiting to signal Contreras’ ‘safe’ before he headed for first.
This will be replayed over and over again. It was a comedy of errors by the Pirates and a stunning example of just what Javier Baez is capable of doing to opponents. I’m still not sure I saw it all happen. El Mago strikes again!