It was a night filled with once and future Cubs as Iowa took on the Fresno Grizzlies (Astros AAA affiliate) Monday night in Des Moines. Dan Straily — the forgotten man in the Shark/Addison Russell deal — was on the bump for the Grizzlies and he was looking good through the first 3 innings. Then the wheels fell off and he had to stay out there and take one for the team.
Javier Baez led off the bottom of the 4th inning last night with a single and then stole 2nd before Christian Villanueva and Mike Olt walked to load the bases. Arismendy Alcantara struck out to give the Grizzlies some hope, though what little reprieve they felt was quickly ruined by a Taylor Teagarden double that plated two men.
Chris Valaika then singled to push another run across before Adron Chambers and John Andreoli hits loaded the bases again. Matt Szczur drove in another run with a sac fly to bring Javy Baez up for the second time in the inning. With Baez batting, Andreoli broke for second and an error by catcher Max Stassi allowed Chamber to come in from 3rd.
If you’re keeping track, that’s 6 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks; needless to say, Straily was not on top of his game. Put yourself in Baez’s shoes in this situation: you’re already up 6-0 against a guy who’s on the ropes and you’re batting for the second time in the inning. Are you gonna shorten your stride and try to poke out a base knock, or are you gonna try to get into some trouble?
There’s really only one reasonable answer to that question, and Javy got it right. I had written a short while back about how he’s refined his approach and quieted both the leg kick and the top-end hand load, but he looked like Daniel-san getting ready to crane-kick Johnny Lawrence on this one. Baez didn’t win the All Valley karate tournament, but he did hit a baseball well over 400 feet, so there’s that.
Baez was the 1st and 10th batter Straily faced in the 4th, and he was also the last. After giving up his 8th earned run of the inning, the struggling righty was removed for reliever Juan Minaya, who induced a groundout from Villanueva to put a merciful end to the frame.
In addition to his big inning, Baez collected collected two more hits (double in 1st, single in 7th) and walk to go 4-for-4 on the night. He is now slashing .315/.383/.542 (.925 OPS) with 13 homers and 57 RBI in only 63 games. He’s also got 16 stolen bases, which is pretty impressive given his shortened season. The defense hasn’t always been stellar (19 errors), but some of that may be due to rust and impatience.
If this young man can stay within himself and carry to Wrigley the adjustments he’s shown at Iowa this year…oh my. It makes me embarrassingly giddy to think of a Cubs lineup in which Baez is surrounded by Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russell, not to mention Anthony Rizzo and (in a month or so) Jorge Soler. Gives me more of a head rush than the double-shot of generic DayQuil Severe I just slugged.