Baez steals home with some razzle-dazzle

Cubs' crafty infielder pulled off similar swipe in Game 1 of last year's NLCS

Baez steals home with some razzle-dazzle

CHICAGO -- In Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers last year, Javier Baez stole home when he wasn't really supposed to. Baez did it again on Wednesday in the Cubs' 17-3 romp over the Pirates.

"I told [bench coach Dave Martinez], 'It worked,'" said Baez, who was the co-MVP with Jon Lester in that NLCS. "I messed it up again and fixed it again."

The Pirates led, 2-1, in the second inning when Baez led off and reached on a fielding error by third baseman David Freese, who couldn't handle the hard-hit ball. Baez then stole second and reached third on a throwing error by catcher Chris Stewart, whose throw to second sailed into center field. It was the second time this series that the Pirates have made two errors in one inning.

With pitcher Jose Quintana at the plate, Pittsburgh starter Ivan Nova delivered a pitch while Baez took a big secondary lead. As Stewart bounced his throw to Freese at third, Baez didn't hesitate, broke for home and slid in without a return throw.

Must C: Baez steals home

Before the game, the Cubs did some extra work on bunting and baserunning. Baez apparently had some timing issues.

"I told [manager Joe Maddon] I'm going too early and I don't know why," Baez said.

"He got off pretty far -- he got off farther than normal," Maddon said of Baez's secondary lead. "What you have right there is you've got an out and your pitcher is hitting. You're going to try to steal this run somehow. If [Baez] is over-aggressive right there, I'm OK with it."

Quintana did square to bunt but the pitch was high.

"I wanted to get out of the way," Quintana said of his reaction when he saw Baez coming down the line.

"We had a safety squeeze," Baez said. "It was the same error as last year [in the NLCS]. We practiced today in early work, and even doing the early work I was going to the plate too fast and breaking to the plate pretty fast. I think on the play [Quintana] squared the bunt too early. I reacted early, too. I was making sure that didn't happen again and it did."

Must C: Baez steals home

It's tough to predict what Baez will do sometimes.

"He's just one of those wild cards out there," Stewart said. "He does things you don't expect and catches you off-guard. He caught me off-guard."

Baez, who has taken over the shortstop duties since Addison Russell went on the disabled list Aug. 3, added a more conventional two-run double in the fifth. Maddon's favorite Baez at-bat of the game came in the eighth when he singled to left.

Baez's two-run double

"I went up to him and said, 'Go look at that swing [in the eighth] -- no stride, head down, everything was beautiful,'" Maddon said. "It was a well-struck line drive to left field.

"How about his baserunning? His stealing of second base, his stealing home, reading the catcher -- the things that not everybody can do. He's just got the chip, he's got it."

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.