Smooth operators: Defense refuses to rest

Baez, Bryant show off versatility with pair of great plays in field

Smooth operators: Defense refuses to rest

PITTSBURGH -- Javier Baez has looked like a natural at third base, and his defensive skills will likely help him secure a spot on the Cubs' postseason roster -- especially after manager Joe Maddon compared his play to that of Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson.

Starting his fifth game at third in the nightcap of Tuesday's doubleheader vs. the Pirates, Baez made a nifty barehanded grab of Michael Morse's grounder to end the fourth inning and strand a runner in the Cubs' 2-1 win at PNC Park.

"That one little chopper that spun and was going to go to his right and he barehanded, it was an outstanding play," Maddon said. "He very calmly picked it up. It was almost like the old Brooks [Robinson], I would say, Graig-Nettles-kind-of-thing where you look at the ball and then throw accurately to first base. It was outstanding."

Bryant's leaping catch

Said Baez: "It was a tough play. I was sure if I grabbed it with the glove, I wasn't going to make the play. I was trying to make a good throw."

Kris Bryant, who has been the primary third baseman, was in right field for the fifth time as a big leaguer, and he showed off his glovework when he snared Andrew McCutchen's fly ball against the right-field wall to end the sixth.

Jon Lester, who struck out nine in his first complete game of the season, complimented shortstop Addison Russell and Starlin Castro with the play of the game when they turned a double play in the seventh. Aramis Ramirez scored from third on the play, but that was OK with Lester.

Ramirez scores on double play

"I think that was the turning point in the game as far as momentum," Lester said. "We'll give up the one [run] to get two [outs]. They saved that inning, and possibly the game right there."

Maddon is a big proponent of good defense, and Baez has impressed him since Spring Training.

"I feel good at third base," Baez said. "I thought it was going to be weird, but I'm seeing the ball off the bat really good."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.