If the Chicago Cubs finally throw off the albatross as the MLB baseball franchise with the longest championship drought they can point to a Puerto Rican infielder who exceeded himself and placed his stamp on the 2016 NLDS against the San Francisco Giants.
The Cubs armed themselves to make history. They lost Starlin Castro but retained the core of their offensive unit and acquired one of the elite closers, Aroldis Chapman, in a late trade with the New York Yankees. They posted a powerful 103-58 record and a NL Central title.
But it took their new second baseman Baez, 23, to help get the over the hump. In 16 at-bats he tallied 6 hits, the first big one a game-winning home run off Johnny Cueto in the eighth inning of a scoreless first game.
If you as Javier, it’s the memory of his deceased sister, whose face is tatted to his arm, who he pointed his fingers to the sky, that inspired the moment.
“She’s the one who gives me strength,”
“I can feel it.”
And Baez made sure that the Giants would feel it, over and over again. He showed another aspect of his game when he motored from second on a bloop single to short right field from pitcher Kyle Hendricks in game 2 spread-eagle sliding around tag attempt.
In the third game he stopped Denard Span from a hit that rolled threateningly in the infield with a dive and spin. A light moment followed him in the dugout dropping his gum but making a save, eliciting a sly smile.
Baez made sure to put the trimmings on his window of display when it looked like the Giants would be forcing a deciding fifth and final game. Trailing 5-2 in the top of the ninth, Chicago rallied to tie and with Heyward at second and Baez coming up to the plate you had to know how this script was going to read. Javier singled up the middle for what would hold up as his second GWRBI and but the Cubs into the NLCS and peak to the sky.