Javier Baez Leaves Team Japan Lost In Translation
Javier Baez homered in consecutive at bats, crushing a solo home run in the 7th and a walk-off two-run bomb in the 9th, helping to rally the Cubs to a 7-5 victory over Team Japan this afternoon at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, AZ.
Team Japan is in Phoenix preparing for the World Baseball Classic Championship Round that will be played in San Francisco next week.
The Cubs scored first, plating three runs in the bottom of the 1st inning against Team Japan lefty junkballer Tetsuya Utsumi.
Javier Baez worked a one-out walk on a 3-2 pitch, and advanced to third base on a Welington Castillo ground-rule (book rule) double that bounced off the right-centerfield warning track and over the fence. Alfonso Soriano lofted a sacrifice fly to right-center to score Baez, and Dave Sappelt drove-in Castillo with a rocket two-out double down the line and into the LF corner. Josh Vitters then ripped an RBI line-drive single to center to score Sappelt.
But Team Japan came back against Cub starter LHP Travis Wood, scoring two runs in the top of the 2nd inning and three more in the 3rd.
Sho Nakata hammered a two-run HR over the LF fence with one out in the 2nd, and then after Kazuo Matsui reached base on a Javier Baez E-6 throwing error to open the 3rd, Shinnosuke Abe clubbed an RBI double into the left-center alley (Abe had two rope-doubles in the game), and Hayato Sakamoto followed with a monster two-run homer that hugged the LF foul line and landed in the parking lot.
Wood threw 4.2 IP (78 pitches - 53 strikes, 4/5 GO/FO), allowing five runs (four earned) on seven hits (four singles, a double, and two HR), but he did throw strikes and did not issue any walks, and he struck out four (three swinging). He also picked a runner of 1st base.
Cory Wade relieved Wood and got four outs (the last out in the 5th and all three outs in 6th), doing it on just eight pitches (seven strikes). Wade has been ultra-efficient in his Cactus League outings, making it look ridiculously easy at times (F-8, K, 1B, 6-4-3 DP today).
Rafael Dolis followed Wade and threw a nine-pitch 1-2-3 7th (F-8, 6-3, 3-U), and Casey Coleman worked a scoreless 8th (allowing a one-out double).
While the Cub bullpen was throwing goose-eggs at Team Japan, the Cubs offense began to claw its way back from a 5-3 deficit.
Javier Baez hit his first home run (a solo moonshot bomb over the LF scoreboard and into the parking lot) off LHP Kenji Otanari with one out in the 7th. Then Dave Sappelt led off the bottom of the 8th with an infield single (his third hit of the game), and after Rubi Silva laid down a sacrifice bunt and Jorge Soler popped out, Dan Vogelbach lined an opposite-field two-out RBI single to left to score Sappelt from 2nd base with the tying run (terrible throw by the Team Japan LF, which allowed Vogelbach to take 2nd base). Alberto Gonzalez followed the Vogelbach RBI hit with an opposite-field line-drive single to right, but Vogelbach was thrown out 9-2 trying to score the go-ahead run from 2nd.
RHP Jensen Lewis entered the game for the Cubs in the top of the 9th, and Team Japan parlayed a couple of singles to put runners at 1st & 3rd with only one out. But Jensen induced two ground outs (the first one a FC where the potential go-ahead run was thrown out at the plate by third-baseman Christian Villanueva) to get out of the inning unscathed, although he did labor a bit (18 pitches - only 10 strikes).
With the score tied 5-5 and one out in the bottom of the 9th, Christian Villanueva smacked a double into the left-center gap off RHP Takeru Imamura, and that set-up Javier Baez to be the hero, as the youngster displayed his incredible bat speed by drilling a two-run line-drive walk-off HR over the left-centerfield fence to give the Cubs the hard-fought victory. (You know it's an unusually hard-hit line-drive HR when the hitter shakes hands with his 1st base coach AND the opposing team's third-baseman shakes the hitter's hand while he's circling the bases).
New Cubs RHRP Kyuji Fujikawa delivered the Cubs lineup to home plate prior to the game, and had a good time interacting with some of the Japanese players and coaches. There were lots & lots of photos taken of the scene (including Fujikawa posing with the Team Japan manager and the umpires) by the dozens of Japanese photographers at the game.
A musician dressed in traditional Japanese warrior garb serenaded the crowd on the third-base side of the field (where Team Japan's bench and most of the Japanese fans were located), beating a Tzusami drum and playing a Hayashi flute throughout the game (Team Japan's version of Ronnie Woo Woo). I think my headache is almost gone.
AZ Phil, has Nathan showed up in Mesa yet? Thanks.
Eickhoff looks like a good young pitcher. Lets steal him!
Manny Rondon faced 13 batters ... and got 10 to K. Not a bad day's work.
With several other Cubs hitters bailing out on curves today I think overall it wasn't being seen well. It for sure looked silly but a good breaking pitch coming at you and then breaking down isn't the easiest thing to see and has made many hitters look silly. Also Soler should have more walks this year but for quite a few called strikes that were actual balls and even the called strike he bailed on was borderline.
it's not like we're talking about a guy who's never had issues with pitch selection and seeing the ball over here. we're talking about a guy who has some rather legendary swing-and-misses at breaking stuff who's been exploited low. going forward it's worth paying attention to seeing if he can be exploited inside, too. he seriously bailed out of the box on a called strike. sure it was a good curve, but he obviously didn't see that well at all.
It would seem like he is figuring it out now and it's really coming together. Really happy for him. Joe was really protecting him from the 3rd time through the order, but as you allude to, he is earning trust to go deeper.
Wondering if has potential to become a #3 pitcher? His current stats certainly support it.
That doesn't count b/c CRUNCH didn't see it on his 60" HDTV 5 times in replay.
I have seen many players "bail out" when the ball looked like it was gonna hit them.
Especially with the advent of the splitter and pitchers that can really get the ball to dance. Marmol, Sutter, Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Smoltz, Arrietta...
These guys have made the best bail out only for the ball to come over the plate and be called a strike.
No shame in that. The same way players whiff hard enough to cause them to drill a hole in the ground from spinning.
a 60" TV with slow-motion replay and multiple looks on that replay helps...a lot...
it's one thing to shy away like he did the 2nd time, it's another to bail out of the box on a called strike. that happened in the 1st one he pulled away from. he misjudged that one by a foot or so...
Good Hendricks sure is fun to watch. He was hitting all his corners today and the Phillies couldn't do anything with his changeup.
Bryant and I believe Zobrist both did that too.
Soler BB acumen and plate awareness is excellent. Not unusual for even the best players to react as if they were about to hit them, "even though they weren't that close" from your vantage point sitting on your deck, or wherever.
soler vs inside breaking balls is scary.
he's had 2 inside curve balls today where he reacted as if they were about to hit him even though they weren't that close...one he bailed out of the box on, it was a called strike.
j.urias optioned back to AAA...guess we wont be seeing him in the LAD series.
so is him actually getting 2 hits in a game (2 doubles!)...first time he's even been on base 2 times in a game since 9 games ago on his 3/4, 1bb day.
im ready for him to at least look like a 2-slot hitter since he's gonna be slotted there no matter what he does.
That Heyward move to avoid Bryant's ball hit at him was a thing of beauty too.
9 pitches in and this game already rules.
HR, double...bryant's turn (who came out to a Kris Kross song for some horrible, horrible reason).
...2 run inning...zoobrest hitting streak at 14.