LOS ANGELES -- Javier Baez seemed to be a star in the making early on this postseason, helping the Cubs dispatch the Giants with multiple game-winning hits and several defensive gems. Now, he is playing like a star already made.
Baez shined again in Chicago's 8-4 win over the Dodgers on Thursday, a victory that moved the Cubs a win away from their first trip to the World Series since 1945. With a three-hit night in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Baez added another layer of evidence that he's a 23-year-old who has officially arrived.
Baez became the youngest player in Cubs history to notch three hits and three RBIs in a game when he delivered a bases-clearing double that punctuated a five-run eighth inning. By then, Baez had already tallied leadoff hits in the fourth and sixth innings. His sixth-inning single preceded Addison Russell's go-ahead home run.
The performance gave Baez his fourth multi-hit game of this postseason.
"He comes and plays, and he's ready every day. He's a gamer," first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "His instincts, you can't teach that and he has it. Obviously, the adjustments he's made at the plate have helped him take off, and he's not even close to tapping into his full potential at the plate, in my opinion."
Baez complemented the big offensive night with yet another dazzling play in the field, this time charging in from shallow right field, where he was positioned as part of a shift, to field a slug bunt by Adrian Gonzalez. After a brief replay review, Gonzalez was ruled out.
That erased what would have been a leadoff runner reaching in the seventh inning of a two-run game.
"He just made an unbelievable play," Gonzalez said. "Javy, full sprint, bare hand, throw against [his body] to first base. Everything you have to do to make a play."
An inning later, Baez stepped in with the bases loaded and two out and put the game out of reach with a double into the right-field corner. He came up limping with an irritated ankle after pulling into second base, but Baez shooed a trainer back into the dugout so he could finish the game.
Afterward, Baez insisted he was fine.
"I just think I overran [the base] a little bit," he said. "I saw [right fielder Yasiel Puig] bobble the ball, and I was trying to go three. I was just trying to run a little bit harder than I do."
Jenifer Langosch has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2007. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.