By Bruce Levine–
LOS ANGELES (CBS) — If Cubs infielder Javier Baez could sing, he may belt out his best Joe Cocker imitation and voice “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Of course, the Beatles wrote the tune, but Cocker’s copy screamed it at the top of his lungs for all to hear. That might be what Baez feels like doing now, as he and the Cubs look for help from the rest of the lineup as Game 3 a National League Championship Series that’s knotted 1-1 looms Tuesday night against the Dodgers.
The 23-year-old Baez has taken the postseason by storm, hitting, fielding and running his way into people’s homes across the country. No longer just a platoon player, Baez’s relentlessness and at-times reckless joy for the game has won him new fans.
“I just go out there and play my game,” Baez said when asked if he tries to make special plays. “I just let things come to me. Things just seem to happen, and I react. There is never anything I am panning to do. I know it looks easy, even for me it’s been looking easy. I believe in myself, and I believe in my team.”
Hitting .391 with a 1.025 OPS in six postseason games, Baez will need more help from some of his teammates who are struggling at the plate as three games loom in a state in which the Cubs had never won a postseason game before a Game 4 win in the NLDS against the Giants in San Francisco. In their history, the Cubs are now 1-8 in California in the playoffs, and they’re 2-9 in road games in the NLCS.
For the hex to end, better offense must come against left-hander Rich Hill in Game 3 and the rest of the Dodgers staff. Outside of Baez, Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras, Cubs batters have struggled in the first six games of the playoffs.
“When I was in need of help, I went to Ben Zobrist for some advice,” Baez said of his approach to Game 1 of the NLCS, when he had two extra-base hits. “He said to me, ‘What is your plan? We talked about it, and after that I had a great game.”
Manager Joe Maddon has talked about changing the batting order and may insert outfielder Jorge Soler in the middle of the order the next couple of days.
“We all try to communicate with each other and help out,” Zobrist said. “There are times when decisions are made and we all get together and talk about it after the fact. In the case of Javier, there is nothing I am telling him now he doesn’t know how to do. He is doing it all on his own.”
Zobrist had some simple advice for the Cubs to turn it around offensively.
“You try not to over-think your at-bats,” Zobrist said. “You try to keep the approach simple. That is especially true on this stage. You must block out all the noise and focus what you have to do up there. We can do that. We know we can do better. Hopefully if we play the way we are capable of, we can pull this series out.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.