Javier Báez is a magician. He makes plays no one can make and his reflexes are are so fast that he’ll occasionally just flick his wrist and redirect a baseball right back to the second baseman resulting in an out. I’ve written previously about Javy and how his brand of baseball generates chaos on the basepaths resulting in runs and opportunities that never should have existed.
In today’s Cubs/Pirates finale Javier Báez managed to pull off one of his greatest tricks as he turned an inning-ending routine ground ball into a run and later came around to score. You absolutely want to see this one again [VIDEO].
Let’s break down how this unprecedented run scoring situation came together:
This sequence of events all started with Javy hitting a baseball he had no business hitting. That is not a strike, it’s a couple inches above the zone and Javy somehow chops this ball to third, where by all accounts it’s a routine ground ball:
Willson Contreras comes into view here, diligently running the bases and respecting 90 as third baseman Erik González makes what should be an inning ending throw to first:
But the ball sails just enough that it pulls first baseman Will Craig off the bag and seemingly right into the lane of one Javier Báez, who is about to take full advantage of his skills to turn this into one of the most incredible sequences of events you’ll ever see in a major league baseball game:
Javy is dead to rights here. All Craig has to do is close two steps or retreat and touch first base and the inning ends. Craig’s crucial error was in trusting that he could close the distance between him and El Mago without incident:
Javy dekes towards home and Craig is hooked. It’s almost like he’s paying so much attention to Javy he’s momentarily forgotten that all he has to do to end this play is touch first base. Javy is going to continue to reel in Craig:
Javy’s brilliance is on full display as he heads back towards home. He speeds up, slows down, stutter steps, everything he can to keep Craig’s eyes on him rather than Willson Contreras sprinting down the third baseline:
Both Javy and Craig are almost back at home plate when Craig realizes the method to Javy’s madness. It’s at this moment Craig commits to throwing out Contreras, which turns out to be an error in judgment:
This looks like it should be so easy. Toss the ball four feet to the catcher and you have two chances to make that final out. All you have to do is tag one of Willson Contreras or Javy Báez to end this whole thing:
Perez chooses to tag Contreras and that does not work because Willson has clearly learned a thing or two about that swim move Javy perfected a few seasons ago. I think my favorite part of this entire play is Javy calling Willson safe before the home plate umpire:
In his postgame interview Javy admitted that he was just watching the play at this point. Luckily for all of us, so were the Pirates. Javy remembers it’s a live ball and that he’s still 90 feet away from first before anyone in black and gold does:
Perez realizes he needs to throw to first because Javy has wheels. Unfortunately for Perez none of his teammates thought about covering first base:
Here again Javy’s mere presence is going to change the course of events in this game. It’s a good throw from Perez (although I’m sure he wishes he could have thrown it to a player covering first base) but Javy is streaking down the line and Adam Frazier takes his eyes off the ball just long enough that he whiffs on the catch:
The ball bounces into the outfield as Javy slides into first safe. Javy is not done yet:
Javy is on his way to second before he’s even been called safe at first:
This play at second actually looks like it could be pretty close. The throw is online and this is not Javy’s best slide. But centerfielder Bryan Reynolds takes his eyes off the ball and attempts to do a Javy tag. Reynolds is not Javy so instead of tagging Javy for the out he misses the ball entirely and it skips down the line toward third:
In retrospect the entire play is the difference in this game. Javy would later come around to score on Ian Happ’s bloop single and the Cubs wound up winning 5-3 to sweep the Pirates. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life and apparently neither has Anthony Rizzo:
There are no stats that capture what Báez is capable of on a baseball diamond. There is no metric to encapsulate how he pulled Craig away from the sure out at first base or pulled multiple fielders eyes off throws that easily could have resulted in him being out before the run counted. There is just Javy being Javy, and Cubs fans are beyond lucky to be able to witness this one of a kind show.