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Cubs’ Javier Báez makes fools of Pirates during bizarre baserunning sequence

Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Will Craig, right, tosses the ball to catcher Michael Perez.
Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Will Craig, right, tosses the ball to catcher Michael Perez after the Chicago Cubs’ Javier Baez got caught in a rundown between home and first, allowing Willson Contreras to score.
(Gene J. Puskar / Associated Press)

Javier Báez hit reverse and chaos ensued, as tends to happen whenever the livewire Chicago Cubs shortstop is on the basepaths.

The quick-thinking star’s latest bit of sorcery led to a comedy of errors by the reeling Pittsburgh Pirates, keying a two-run rally in a 5-3 victory on Thursday.

“He just makes crazy things happen,” Chicago manager David Ross said. “He runs in moments and guys forget how to play baseball sometimes.”

Pirates first baseman Will Craig certainly did.

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With teammate Willson Contreras on second and two outs in the third inning, Báez hit a routine grounder to third baseman Erik González. González’s throw to Craig at first was a little up the line, pulling Craig off the bag. No biggie. All Craig had to do was tag Báez or touch first. The inning should have been over.

It wasn’t. What followed was 40 seconds of madness that will likely follow Báez and Craig no matter where their careers take them.

Báez hit the brakes to avoid Craig’s glove and started backtracking toward the plate. Craig curiously decided to follow Báez.

The move bought enough time for Contreras to round third and sprint home. Craig attempted a toss to catcher Michael Pérez, but Contreras slid under the tag while Báez took off for first. Pérez’s throw to first sailed past second baseman Adam Frazier attempting to cover the bag, allowing Báez to race to second.

At any point in time, if the ball gets to first before Báez does, the out is recorded, the run doesn’t count and life goes on. It didn’t, encapsulating a season that is quickly slipping away from the Pirates.

“We have to make sure we get the force,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “That’s just where it’s at. I mean, if Báez runs all the way back or runs into their dugout or runs down to the Strip District, we can walk down and touch first.”

After a Cardinals pitcher had to change his cap because it was sticky, Dave Roberts discusses the widespread use of substances that enhance grip.

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Báez ended up scoring moments later on a single by Ian Happ to give the Cubs a three-run lead they wouldn’t relinquish, adding another chapter to his burgeoning resume as one of baseball’s most exhilarating — and occasionally erratic — players in the game in the process.

“I turn to the dugout and everybody was celebrating like I hit a double,” Báez said. “It’s just great.”


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