Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez has a knack for making the tough defensive play. He proved that during the team’s World Series run last year. Throughout the postseason, Baez produced a number of exceptional highlights.
He was at it again during Monday’s 5-4 win over the Washington Nationals. With two outs in the third inning, Bryce Harper stepped to the plate looking to get his team going. The Cubs held a 1-0 lead on a leadoff home run by catcher Willson Contreras, and Harper was hoping to cut into that deficit.
On the first pitch of the at-bat, Harper lined a ball to the opposite field toward short. Since Harper is a lefty, Baez was not in the normal shortstop position. He was shifted closer to the middle of the field.
It didn’t matter. Baez read the ball perfectly off the ball. He took two steps to his right, and then dove while turning his body so his back faced the infield. Baez had to fully extend, putting his mitt in the perfect spot to make the grab.
If Baez was shocked, he didn’t show it. After getting off the ground, he casually flipped the ball toward the pitcher’s mound as he jogged back to the dugout.
That wasn’t the case with Harper. He reached first base with his mouth agape, wondering how the heck this happened. His eyes focused on the scoreboard in center just so he could make sure everything he just witnessed was real.
That wasn’t the only great play by Baez on Monday. A few innings later, he made an excellent sliding catch in foul territory.
Thankfully, Harper wasn’t the victim of this one. We think it might have broken him after his reaction to Baez’s first snag.
Baez, by the way, wasn’t playing his normal position. With shortstop Addison Russell dealing with a shoulder injury, Baez was forced to cover short.
Given Joe Maddon’s luck lately, of course Baez turned in a highlight-caliber play when the ball was hit to him. Baez starting at short is no where near as inexplicable as hitting your catcher in the leadoff spot, but when you’re hot, you’re hot.
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