Javier Baez decided to steal the spotlight from fellow Puerto Rican, Enrique Hernandez.
Baez hit two home runs including a Grand Slam, and the Chicago Cubs crushed the Los Angeles Dodgers, 9-4, on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
The 53,904 fans in attendance was the largest crowd in Major League Baseball since Aug. 30, 2012, and the first 40,000 received a Hernandez bobblehead, celebrating his record-setting, three-homer performance in the NL-pennant clinching Game 5 of the 2017 National League Championship Series against the Cubs.
However, after hitting three home runs in his last two games, Hernandez was silenced on Tuesday as Baez stole the show.
The Dodgers struck first in the bottom of the second inning on an RBI single for Cody Bellinger following a leadoff walk by Max Muncy.
Bellinger has hit the ball well over the last few weeks, since June 5 he is batting .306 with 15 runs, five doubles, one triple, seven homers and 14 RBI.
The Cubs tied the game on Baez’s first homer, a solo shot in the top of the fifth off Ross Stripling.
“I threw everything but the kitchen sink at him,” Stripling said of Baez. “Hopefully, if we play them [the Cubs] in October, I can get him out then.”
Despite only throwing 86 pitches, Stripling was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom half of the inning as the Dodgers took the lead on a bloop single by Austin Barnes.
“Maybe if I’m sitting there with my batting gloves on he’s probably like, ‘alright Strip, you go ahead and hit,'” said Stripling about being lifted for a pinch-hitter. “I was sitting waiting for the decision and he said “alright, CT’s gonna hit.'”
Stripling did not factor in the decision, allowing just one run on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts in five innings.
“He just wasn’t sharp tonight,” said Roberts of Stripling. “Tonight was a grind for Ross. Outside of that first inning, he couldn’t put hitters away and he just wasn’t as crisp as he has been all year.”
Despite the no decision, Stripling has pitched well at home this season, going 4-0 with a 1.81 ERA in 11 games (six starts).
Yasiel Puig gifted the Cubs a couple runs after an unlikely error on a fly ball to right field allowed runners to reach second and third instead of recording the second out of the inning.
“I thought the ball was a little further away, and as I was trying to run it down I kind of lost it in the lights,” said Puig through an interpreter after the game. “That’s when they scored the runs and that’s why we lost the game.”
Five batters later, Baez broke the game open with a grand slam off Edward Paredes as the Cubs scored a total of six runs in the top of the sixth inning.
Jon Lester (10-2) became the second pitcher in the National League to reach double-digit wins as he surrendered just two runs on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts in five innings.
In his last six starts, Lester is a perfect 6-0 with a 1.89 ERA, while limiting the opposition to a .184 average. The six-game winning streak ties a career-high and is the second longest active streak in the Majors behind Gerrit Cole (7).
The Dodgers scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth after the Cubs abdicated third base in order to maintain the shift on the left-handed hitting Muncy.
Both Hernandez and Justin Turner stole third without anyone on the bag, and scored on a wild pitch and a single by Muncy, respectively.
Baez finished the game 4-for-5 with a double, two home runs, five RBI and two runs scored as he fell a triple shy of the cycle.
The Cubs snapped a five-game losing streak with the win.
The Cubs will send RHP Kyle Hendricks to the mound on Wednesday opposite LHP Alex Wood for the Dodgers. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10PM PST.
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