Javier Baez's 100th career home run could not be better at the Chicago Cubs.
On the brink of another frustrating loss to the New York Mets, Baez took it right down to the limit Sunday
Down in the count 0-2, he went right to the right in the bottom of the eighth against reliever Seth Lugo for a 3-run homer that rallied the Cubs to a 5-3 victory.
"Feels great, "said Baez, who has 19 homers this season. "That's a lot of homers for me. Actually, I didn't know until I started and everybody started congratulating me. Pretty excited. I thought it was going to be a little bit later on in my career. I really didn Really happy that I have it and hopefully I can keep it going. "
Baez joins Ernie Banks and Shawon Dunston as the only Cubs shortstops with a minimum of 50 games played at short to reach 100 homers with the cubs
Until Baez hit his, it was a frustrating day and a frustrating homestand for the Cubs. They split a pair with the White Sox and were on the brink of release three of four to the Mets.
On top of it, Baez struck out his first two times against Jacob deGrom, making him 3-for-18 on the homestand
But his homer rescued another good start by pitcher Cole Hamels and set the table for Pedro Strop to earn his ninth save.
"That was big because he was so frustrated," Strop said. "It's not the first time it happened. When I was walking to the pen, I saw that it was frustrated after that strikeout. He said," Oh, he (deGrom) is not throwing us any fastballs, just sliders. " I was like, "Bro, it's good that you know that. Go with another plan. You're going to win this ballgame." "
Manager Joe Maddon always preaches opposite field, especially when his batters are down in the count.
"We've seen it before, right?" said Maddon, whose team improved to 42-35 to hold on to the first place in the National League Central. "I love when he's in that (right-center) gap. I think he should adopt the right-center-field gap. A lot of our guys should, if they're right-handed. Good at-bat again. Couple good at-bats actually for him. "
The early part of the game was a nice duel between Hamels and deGrom. Hamels singled home the game's first run in the second inning. The Mets said in the fourth on Pete Alonso's leadoff homer. It was Alonso's 27th of the season already.
Tomas Nido homered and deGrom had an RBI single in the fifth to put the Mets up 3-1 before Anthony Rizzo's RBI single gave the Cubs a run in the bottom half.
In the eighth, Kyle Schwarber singled, and after Kris Bryant field out, Rizzo walked, setting up Baez.
But Hamels battled to keep the Cubs in it. He worked 7 innings for his fifth quality start in a row (1.00 ERA in that span). He also kept his pitch count down early on a humid day
But he, too, marveled at Baez.
"He's the type of player, you can never count him out," Hamels said. "He always wants to make a difference. As much as he wants to make a difference in the batter's box, he definitely makes his presence known on the field with all the plays he does.
" It's just pretty spectacular to have him as a teammate and have that guy in the lineup. "