CHICAGO (AP) — Javier Baez is going to be himself. That much is sure in his fifth major league season.
Sometimes, he is going to swing from his heels and fall to the ground when misses. Sometimes, he is going to make a great play in the field. Sometimes, he is going to hit the ball a very long way.
Sometimes, like Wednesday night, he is going to do all of it in one game.
Baez homered twice for the second straight day and scored the go-ahead run on a daring dash around the bases, helping the Chicago Cubs pull away from the Pittsburgh Pirates for a 13-5 victory.
“He is one of the more exciting players in the game right now,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
Kris Bryant added three hits and two RBIs as Chicago got its first home win in the first night game at Wrigley Field this season. Albert Almora Jr. also had three hits and Ben Zobrist drove in two runs in the Cubs’ highest scoring performance in their first 11 games.
Baez belted a three-run shot to right-center against Steven Brault in the second and connected against Dovydas Neverauskas in the eighth, sending a solo drive to back of the bleachers in left. The crowd of 35,596 chanted “Ja-vy! Ja-vy!” after he rounded the bases, and he obliged the cheers with a curtain call.
“I’ve been working on focusing on just me and the pitcher out there,” Baez said. “Forget about the whole field, everything really. Launch angle. The miles off the bat, all this stuff, I was hitting with all this stuff. I clear my mind and it’s all about compete. So that’s how I’ve been taking it.”
Baez, who recently got engaged, also hit two solo homers in Tuesday’s 8-5 loss in the series opener. The dynamic infielder became the first player with consecutive multihomer games for the Cubs since Alfonso Soriano from May 16-17, 2008.
“Four homers in two days is OK,” Cubs pitcher Jon Lester deadpanned. “I’m glad he’s on our side.”
Pittsburgh had won four of five for its first 8-2 start since 1992. Sean Rodriguez hit a three-run homer and David Freese connected for a solo shot, but the game got away from the Pirates during the Cubs’ four-run sixth.
Baez struck out swinging leading off the inning against Tyler Glasnow (0-1), but he reached safely when the ball got past catcher Francisco Cervelli for a wild pitch. He advanced on Jason Heyward’s bouncer to first and then swiped third with pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella at the plate.
Pittsburgh then brought its infield in and La Stella hit a grounder to second baseman Josh Harrison. Baez broke for the plate and Harrison’s throw was wild as Chicago grabbed a 5-4 lead.
The Cubs poured it on from there. Zobrist capped the sixth-inning outburst with a two-run single back up the middle. Pinch-hitter Ian Happ connected for a two-run homer in the seventh, and Bryant tacked on his second RBI double of the game.
“I think toward the end I could have made a couple better pitches, but overall I felt all right,” Glasnow said. “Some bad luck, but that’s baseball.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was disappointed with Glasnow’s delivery time on Baez’s steal in the sixth.
“That’s awareness,” Hurdle said. “Those are things we’ve got to continue to be mindful of and work with them in. But you’ve got to take ownership some of those things.”
Brian Duensing (1-0) pitched a perfect sixth for the win.
Rodriguez’s massive drive to center off Lester put Pittsburgh in front in the second, but Chicago responded with four in the bottom half. Zobrist scored on a wild pitch before Baez went deep for his third of the season.
A DIFFERENT VIEWPOINT
The dugouts at Wrigley were moved farther down the lines and revamped over the winter. The result is a different viewpoint from each side of the field, and Maddon is already working on a couple small changes with team executives.
“Everybody’s on the same page,” Maddon said. “Like I said, I think the adjustments are minimal. Just something that permits us better egress and regress out of the dugout for the hitters, and just some sightlines from a coaching perspective, too.”
Pirates: RHP A.J. Schuegel (shoulder discomfort) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Single-A Bradenton on Thursday. … RHP Joe Musgrove (right shoulder strain) has played catch on flat ground from 75 feet twice, director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said.
Pittsburgh right-hander Trevor Williams (2-0, 1.59 ERA) tries for his third straight win to begin the season when he starts the series finale on Thursday afternoon. Kyle Hendricks (0-0, 4.09 ERA) gets the ball for the Cubs after he went 1-1 with a 2.55 ERA in three starts against the Pirates last year.
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