CHICAGO -- After struggling to drive in runners last weekend against the Cardinals, the Cubs' hitters got together and talked about the need to be more patient at the plate. That patience paid off, setting up Javier Baez's first inning grand slam on Thursday against the Reds.
Baez launched his third career grand slam with two outs in the first inning of the Cubs' 9-5 win at Wrigley Field. He connected on a 1-2 pitch from Amir Garrett, and the blast had an exit velocity of 99 mph and traveled 415 feet into the right-field bleachers.
"You know, it was a hanging slider," Garrett said. "I think nine out of 10 people are going to hit that pitch. I was focused on trying to make it nastier than it needed to be, and you know, that always kills me right there when I try to do that. It was up in the zone and it was hanging and he put a good swing on it like I expected him to do. He just hit it out of the park. You just learn from those mistakes."
The Cubs did a good job to put Baez in that situation. With one out in the first, Kris Bryant walked and Anthony Rizzo reached on a bloop single to center that shortstop Zack Cozart pursued before losing the ball in the sun. One out later, Garrett walked both Willson Contreras and Addison Russell, which forced in a run. Baez was next, and he notched his sixth home run of the season.
"I just kept my approach the whole [at-bat] and he made a mistake and hung a slider, and I got to it and hit it out and the wind took it," Baez said. "We've been talking to each other about taking more pitches and making [the pitcher] work, and it's been working for us. We're still making adjustments. When everything gets together, we'll be really good again."
Baez added an RBI single in the fifth, and he's now batting .248. With the arrival of top prospect Ian Happ, Baez's name has been mentioned as possible trade bait to get a starting pitcher. Baez said he's surprised to hear that kind of talk.
"I don't control that," Baez said. "I can't change what people and fans are going to talk about. I just try to stay focused on baseball. I'd love to stay here, because I love Chicago and this organization has been the best. If something comes, I know it won't be any time soon."
Cubs starter Jon Lester, who was named co-Most Valuable Player with Baez in the National League Championship Series, has seen the young infielder grow up.
"You see the at-bats, and see him grow each at-bat," Lester said. "We knew coming in two years ago about his swing and miss and all that stuff, and he's made the adjustments to stay around. Obviously, his defensive side of the game helps that. You see him grow every day as a hitter and see him make adjustments and have good at-bats and do things in a game that can really change the game for us on a positive side."
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.