LOS ANGELES (AP) — Javier Baez put on a show for the Chicago Cubs and appeared to nail his audition for a high-profile role later this summer.
Baez hit two home runs, including a grand slam, Jon Lester won his sixth consecutive start and the Cubs ended a five-game losing streak with a 9-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.
Baez homered in consecutive innings, giving him 16 on the season, and finished with four hits. He hit a solo shot off Dodgers starter Ross Stripling in the fifth inning and his bases-loaded shot in the sixth into the Dodgers’ bullpen came against reliever Edward Paredes.
And he did all of his damage in front of Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who just happens to be the National League’s manager in the All-Star Game next month.
“I have been saying for a couple of years, the moment he stops swinging at sliders in the dirt, he becomes Manny Ramirez . and he’s getting closer,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Baez. “And I think he is a better defender than Manny was . and baserunner. And Manny, I still love you.”
Baez said he was inspired to play at Dodger Stadium, but not necessarily because Roberts was watching him from the top step.
“I love it here,” Baez said. “The (Dodgers) fans are pretty close to ours. I like playing here and I like the energy they have for their team. This is a team we will see for a long time, hopefully in the playoffs, and it is always going to be a good competition.”
Stripling gave up just one run over five innings before the Cubs broke open the game with six runs off the bullpen. Yimi Garcia (1-2) gave up three of them. The Dodgers lost for just the sixth time in 22 games in June.
“I think they’re a really good lineup,” Stripling said. “Obviously Lester on the mound makes them good, too. I think they’re a good benchmark for us to see how we’re playing.”
It was Baez’s fourth multi-homer game and his second this season. His grand slam was the fourth of his career.
Lester (10-2) gave up two runs on four hits over five innings. It was his shortest outing by innings since April 11, when he also went five against the Pittsburgh Pirates, and his 82 pitches were his fewest since throwing 71 on opening day in Miami.
“Obviously any time you’re taken out of a game you’re not happy, (but) I respect the decision,” Lester said. “(Maddon’s) my manager and I always stand behind him. But I’m a competitor and I want to pitch innings.”
Lester has a 1.73 ERA over his last 11 starts, going back to April 30, and hasn’t lost since May 23. He is tied with Washington’s Max Scherzer for the NL lead in wins.
Cody Bellinger had two of the Dodgers’ four hits off Lester and now has 19 hits in his past 18 games, including seven of his 15 home runs.
The Dodgers have a major league-leading 48 home runs in June but did not hit one Tuesday.
The Cubs sent nine batters to the plate in their big sixth inning. Adison Russell and Ben Zobrist hit RBI singles in the frame to go along with Baez’s grand slam. Willson Contreras added an RBI single in the eighth inning and Albert Almora had an RBI single in the ninth.
The Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez and Justin Turner each stole third base uncontested in the eighth inning with the Cubs’ infield overloaded on the right side in an extreme defensive shift. Hernandez and Turner both ended up scoring in the inning.
Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis held a short meeting Tuesday for the hitters and it turned into a nine-run, 15-hit night for a club starved for offense.
“I want to believe (the meeting) had something to do with it,” Maddon said. “(Opposite-field) hits by Almora and Contreras I loved. And of course, Javy had a nice day. I’m still looking forward to, as we get more mature in the batter’s box, that we chase less. I love homers like everybody else does, but there are so many other ways to score.”
ROUGH DAY FOR PUIG
The Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig was doubled off trying to scramble back to first base in the second inning, failed to grab Ian Happ’s line drive into the gap in right-center for an error in the sixth, and twice allowed the Cubs to take an extra base on throws back to the infield.
The Dodgers came into the sixth inning with a 2-1 lead and left trailing 7-2.
“I thought the ball was a little further away and when I was trying to run it down I kind of lost it in the lights and that’s when we lost the game,” Puig said of missing Happ’s liner.
Cubs: 3B Kris Bryant (left shoulder inflammation) was placed on the 10-day DL, retroactive to June 23, but is not expected to miss more than 10 days, Maddon. … RHP Yu Darvish (right triceps tendinitis) will throw a bullpen this week before the Cubs decide if he will need another rehab start or rejoin the active roster.
Dodgers: RHP Walker Buehler (right rib microfracture) threw a full-intensity bullpen session and the Dodgers will discuss the possibility of an upcoming minor league rehab start. … INF/OF Chris Taylor (sore left hamstring) did not start but had a pinch-hit single in the fifth inning as the club is trying to avoid a DL move. … RHP Pedro Baez (right biceps tendinitis) threw a bullpen at about 70-percent effort, according to Roberts, and is expected to throw another bullpen Friday.
Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks (5-7, 3.73 ERA) has lost four of his last five starts. Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood (3-5, 4.13) has won his last two starts after giving up 15 combined runs over his previous three outings.
(© Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)