Review shows Baez's stellar fielding just beats bunt attempt
By David Adler
When Adrian Gonzalez tried to jump-start a Dodgers rally late in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Thursday, Javier Baez -- who else? -- was there to quash it. The Cubs' young second baseman came up with yet another postseason defensive gem in the Cubs' 8-4 win at Dodger Stadium.
Leading off the home seventh with Los Angeles trailing, 3-1, against Jon Lester, Gonzalez tried to drag-bunt through the Cubs' shift, with Baez playing well into the right-field grass. But Baez, who began the play stationed 180 feet from home plate, charged into the infield to scoop up the bunt and fired a throw -- on the run and across his body -- to barely nab Gonzalez.
"The fielding of the bunt by Javy was spectacular," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, adding that the Cubs did not expect Gonzalez to try to bunt. "That is a magnificent play. He's playing back on the grass. He's actually way out there."
Gonzalez was initially ruled safe, but the Cubs challenged, and the call was overturned on review.
According to the Replay Official, "After viewing all relevant angles, the Replay Official definitively determined that the ball contacted the interior of the fielder's glove prior to the batter-runner's foot touching first base. The call is overturned, the batter-runner is out."
The Dodgers didn't score in the seventh, and the Cubs broke the game open with a five-run eighth to head back to Wrigley Field a win away from their first World Series berth since 1945.
"Great bunt, trying to get on base and get something going," Gonzalez said. "He just made an unbelievable play."
Baez had to cover 55.7 feet to field Gonzalez's bunt, per Statcast™ -- the most covered by any Cubs infielder this season on a groundout, and the 15th-most by any Major League infielder.
Not only that, but Baez got the ball out of his glove quickly, with a nifty .57-second exchange, which proved important given how far he had to come to field the ball and Gonzalez's running start out of the batter's box. Despite Gonzalez's lack of speed, because it was a drag bunt, he got down the line faster than usual. His home-to-first time of 4.09 seconds was his fastest all year, according to Statcast™.
"Our infielders have saved our butt more times than not," Lester said. "And that's what makes us a great unit."
This was the second night in a row that Gonzalez came out on the losing end of a review following a bang-bang play. In Game 4, Gonzalez was called out at home trying to score on a single by Andrew Toles -- he looked to have dived in just safely under the tag, but the out call stood.
According to the Replay Official, "After viewing all relevant angles, the Replay Official could not definitively determine that the runner's hand contacted home plate prior to the fielder applying the tag. The call stands, the runner is out."
After that, Gonzalez said, he was hoping the safe call on Thursday would stand, too, but added that there shouldn't be any makeup calls.
The Dodgers did have a replay turn a call in their favor in Game 5. Howie Kendrick was called out stealing third in the fourth inning, but after Los Angeles challenged, the call was overturned.
According to the Replay Official in that case, "After viewing all relevant angles, the Replay Official definitively determined that the runner contacted third base prior to the fielder applying the tag. The call is overturned, the runner is safe."
Kendrick went on to score on an RBI groundout by Gonzalez that tied the game at 1.
Still, Baez's play hurt -- a big out when the Dodgers were still within reach.
"To make that play barehand and throw him out," Maddon said, "again, I keep saying this about him: The minority of the Major League players can make that play."
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.