Cubs understand there's still a growing process with Javy Baez despite playoff breakout

Cubs understand there's still a growing process with Javy Baez despite playoff breakout

Javy Baez swung and missed, unable to catch up to a 94 mph Cody Allen fastball above the hands, sending Cubs fans to the streets of Wrigleyville with a bad taste in their mouths.

Baez struck out with runners on second and third despite Allen throwing only one pitch in the strike zone throughout the at-bat.

It was Baez's fifth strikeout in 13 World Series at-bats as he expanded the strike zone, admitting after the game he was over-anxious.

He wasn't the only one.

The Cubs were swinging at pitches out of the strike zone all night, dropping a heartbreaker 1-0 to the Cleveland Indians in the first World Series game Wrigley Field has seen since 1945.

Joe Maddon sent a message to his team after the Game 3 loss, urging his guys to re-organize the strike zone and get back to their approach.

Baez acknowledged he was trying to do too much up at the plate instead of keeping the same approach that led him to a .342 average and .892 OPS in the first 10 games of the postseason.

"First of all, I love the fact that he's honest about it," Maddon said. "I really dig that. That's how you get better - the accountability component. 

"He just needs repetition. He's been good. Look what he did in San Francisco. Look what he did against the Dodgers. He's been really good in the postseason. He won an award."

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

For the co-NLCS MVP and the guy who drove in seven runs in the NLDS and NLCS, the 23-year-old Baez has started to show his age in the World Series.

Maddon bumped Baez down to eighth in the order for Game 4 Saturday against Corey Kluber and believes Baez will right the ship.

"What that requires more than anything is just talking to him," Maddon said. "Having him getting back to the approach that made him so successful for the last two series in the latter part of the season. That's it.

"There's no more work to do. There's no more information, data, all the stuff that everybody wants you to really inundate yourself with. 

"It's just a mindset. It's controlling your emotions. It's controlling your mind. It's having the right plan in place. It's being self-aware."

Maddon kept coming back to the fact Baez admitted his struggles in talking with the media late Friday night.

"Listen, I love this guy," Maddon said. "We all do. He's spectacular. He's going to keep getting better, but I love the accountability component from him."

With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper


With Cubs reeling, Jon Lester comes up big and plays stopper

The last three games have been more than forgettable for the Cubs.

From Wednesday’s 11-1 drubbing at the hands of the Phillies to back-to-back walk-off losses on Thursday and Friday, the Cubs’ current road trip has looked much like those that preceded it. At various times, the offense has scuffled, the rotation has pitched a clunker and the bullpen has cracked.

The solution to the latest road trip woes? Give the ball to Jon Lester and get the hell out of the way.

Lester —  who pitched a clunker himself Aug. 6 against the A’s — did what the Cubs have become so accustomed to see him do over the past four seasons. The 35-year-old tossed 6+ shutout innings, allowing just four hits, leading the Cubs to a 2-0 win.

Lester had no room for error on Saturday, as the Cubs offense went hitless for the first 4 1/3 innings. While the Cubs bats were asleep, the Pirates threatened to break the game on open multiple times, loading the bases with one out (first inning), no outs (fifth) and getting runners on first and second with no outs in the sixth.

The latter two of those instances were assisted by errors by third baseman Kris Bryant, but that’s neither here nor there. Point being, with how the Cubs looked offensively, any Pirates runs could have proved critical on Saturday. Instead, Lester worked out of every jam, stymying the Pirates bats to an 0-for-12 line with RISP.

Winning Saturday’s game was obviously important for the Cubs, as it puts them a game ahead of the Cardinals in the win column (pending the outcome of St. Louis's game against the Reds later Saturday). But it was equally important for Lester, who called himself the “weakest link” in the Cubs starting rotation after that tough outing against the A’s.

The beautiful thing about baseball is that the regular season is 162 games long. Each day presents teams with a new slate, a chance to forget about what happened in the previous game and move forward.  If Saturday’s start shows anything, it’s that Lester and the Cubs are more than capable of putting a tough game in the rearview mirror and keep moving forward.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Get to know Kelly Crull podcast

NBC Sports Chicago

Cubs Talk Podcast: Get to know Kelly Crull podcast

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, we get to know Kelly Crull. Kelly tells Luke Stuckmeyer about her love of bowling growing up, why she became a reporter and some of her favorite moments covering the Cubs.

01:00 Kelly's love of tennis at an early age

04:00 Following basketball while growing up in Indiana

06:00 Possible tennis showdown between Kelly and Megan Mawicke

09:30 Kelly talks about working in London & interviewing J.K. Rowling

14:00 When did she decide to become a reporter?

15:00 What is her favorite food?

16:00 Kelly's go-to karaoke song

18:00 Kelly's favorite NBA story (it involves Kevin Durant)

21:00 Favorite moments covering the Cubs

24:00 Dealing with the weather at Wrigley Field

28:00 Something we don't know about Kelly

31:00 What does Kelly enjoy watching at home the most?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast