Javier Baez began the 2017 postseason on an 0-for-20 skid with two walks and eight strikeouts through eight games (six starts). With the Chicago Cubs facing elimination in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, Baez was back in the lineup.
The dynamic second baseman responded by hitting a solo home run in the second inning, extending the Cubs’ lead to 2-0, then Baez hit another homer in the fifth to put the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 3-1 deficit.
Baez’s second solo shot proved to be the difference the Cubs, as Justin Turner’s home run in the eighth inning cut the lead to 3-2, which held as the final score. Baez joined Aramis Ramirez, Alex Gonzalez, Eric Karros and Gary Matthews as the only Cubs with a two-homer game in the postseason.
With the Cubs pushing the NLCS to a Game 5, they now will face Clayton Kershaw as they look to extend the best-of-seven series against the Dodgers.
In a postgame interview with Jon Morosi that aired on MLB Network, Baez said he feels great about facing Kershaw and wished him luck:
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) October 19, 2017
Unlike each of the past four playoffs, Kershaw has not been needed to start on short rest. His outing Thursday night at Wrigley Field is Kershaw’s first since starting Game 6 of last year’s NLCS.
On five days’ rest, he only went five innings and allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits, including two home runs, in the Dodgers’ elimination loss. In Game 1 of this year’s NLCS, Kershaw again pitched five innings and allowed two runs on four hits (one homer).
A start in Game 5 presents the Dodgers ace with an opportunity to shed the postseason narratives that have engulfed him, as Kershaw can help lead clinch the organization’s first berth to the World Series since 1988.