Baez wows with 2nd-to-home dash on dribbler

Baez wows with 2nd-to-home dash on dribbler

CHICAGO -- When Kyle Schwarber hit a dribbler toward third and sprinted to first base in the third inning on Friday, he heard the crowd of 37,280 at Wrigley Field cheer. It wasn't for him, though, as the fans were reacting once again to Javier Baez.

Baez raced home from second on Schwarber's swinging bunt to help spark the Cubs in a 2-0 win over the Braves.

"I didn't know he was going," Schwarber said of Baez, who apparently surprised the Braves as well. "I just hit the bag and thought I was safe. I heard everyone going crazy and I thought, 'What just happened?' I look back and saw that Javy scored.

"I can't talk enough about how much baseball instinct that is right there," Schwarber said. "He saw the pitcher [Mike Foltynewicz] go over there and he made a nice play on it and threw to first, and as soon as [Baez] saw him throw, he took off. It's a great baseball instinct play right there."

It's just Javy being Javy. Baez, who has become the Cubs' full-time shortstop since Addison Russell was sidelined Aug. 3 with a right foot strain, has had a busy week. He stole home on Wednesday against the Pirates and has made one defensive gem after another.

Baez steals home

"To be a good baserunner, you have to anticipate in advance," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "You have to see things. I've compared it to a good running back in football. They talk about how he sees his blocking schemes, he sees his holes. [Baez] sees things that most other guys don't see in advance of the moment. He just has that quickness about his mind when it comes to a lot of things on the field."

What impressed Maddon was that Baez knew he was going to score the moment Schwarber made contact.

"You can't decide halfway there, three-quarters of the way there, 'I'm going to do that,'" Maddon said. "I know [third-base coach Gary Jones] is being aggressive sending him, but Javy has to be invested fully that, 'I can do this,' and that was very large for us."

Maddon on Baez's run, win

It's not exactly clear whether Jones was waving Baez home.

"I saw the ball off the bat well and the third baseman [Rio Ruiz] was almost at short, and it was Schwarber running, and I knew [Foltynewicz] was going to try to throw to first and throw him out," Baez said. "I didn't see 'Jonsey' and if he was stopping me or waving me. I was just going for it all the way, and made it."

Schwarber is amazed almost daily by Baez's skills.

"He's got all of that in his bag of tricks," Schwarber said. "It's fun to watch -- you see him make the backhand in the hole or steal home or whatever it is. It's a lot of fun. I know it's fun for everyone else to watch. We're wowed as well."

Baez began this season as a part-time player, but with the injury to Russell, he's getting the chance to show he can play every day. You don't want to miss Baez's at-bats or his baserunning or his play in the field.

Does he just rely on his instincts or does he think about the play?

"It's probably 50-50," Baez said. "I was just trying to get there."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. 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.