“Wow. That was a nice performance,” Maddon said after Baez — who almost was scratched because he didn’t feel well — hit a three-run home run and had five RBIs to highlight the NL Central-leading Cubs’ 11-6 victory over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night. Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ also went deep.
Baez, voted to start at second base in his first All-Star Game, hit a no-doubt shot to right-center field off Phil Hughes in the ninth inning, and the thousands of Cubs fans at Petco Park chanted “Javy! Javy! Javy!” as the 25-year-old from Puerto Rico rounded the bases. It was his 19th.
“I like the way he’s going about his business,” Maddon said. “He’s playing the game right, playing the game hard, playing the game smartly, he’s just playing the game of baseball. I don’t think he has an analytical bone in his body. RBIs are groovy, despite what people say. His baserunning skills, acumen, he’s a baseball player. He’s absolutely fun to watch.”
Baez has 71 RBIs, tied for the NL lead and just four shy of his career-high set last year.
Maddon said he spoke with Baez recently about using the whole field.
“While I’m talking to him about different things, I’m very careful because I don’t want to mess with his vibe. He rotates and he beats to a different soundtrack, man. He’s just different. So when I speak to him, I try to simplify it and not give him a whole lot to think about, but just try to encourage thought on his part.”
Baez, who sounded congested, said he had a headache earlier in the day and his whole body hurt when he hit in the cage pregame. But he took some medicine and played.
“I told them I was going to get better during the game and I feel better,” he said.
Baez went opposite-field on his home run on a pitch from Hughes that just above the top of the strike zone.
“I hit it really good but kind of missed it a little bit and it went straight up. I didn’t think it was going out. But we had men on first and third and either it was going to score a run.”
There’s a good reason why Baez is so hot.
“This year I’ve been consistent with my work, with my routine, being here early,” he said. “I’m the type of guy that I like to take my time during my routine, so I like to get here early and there are already a few people here. Working is the thing that is getting me here and doing some good this first half.”
Maddon recently likened Baez to one of the Beatles because of his growing star power. The manager thought Baez would look like George Harrison or Ringo Starr if he grew out his hair.
Asked if he’d decided which one, Maddon said: “Maybe all of them, right?”
Baez and Schwarber will be in Monday’s Home Run Derby in Washington.
“That’s a little taste of what you’ll be getting for the Derby,” Schwarber said of Baez’s homer.
Kyle Hendricks (6-8) won for the first time in five starts, holding San Diego to two runs and five hits in five innings, with three strikeouts and no walks. He allowed Eric Hosmer’s two-run homer in the first, his 10th.
That lead was gone by the fourth. Happ homered to center field off Luis Perdomo (1-4) leading off the second, his 11th. Schwarber homered to left on a line shot after Happ walked opening the fourth. It was Schwarber’s 18th.
Baez gave the Cubs a 5-2 lead with a two-run double in the fifth that chased Perdomo. Jason Heyward was aboard on a double after the initial call that he was tagged out was overturned on video review.
Hunter Renfroe hit a pinch, two-run homer for the Padres in the sixth, his sixth, to pull the Padres within one.
But the Cubs added on in the eighth on Addison Russell’s two-run single to right and Victor Caratini’s two-run double just inside the right-field line.
Hosmer, San Diego’s $144 million man, has struggled recently.
“I think we’re thrilled to see it, and expect more as the second half unfolds for us,” manager Andy Green said of Hosmer’s homer. “He’s doing everything right, just hasn’t had any results.”
Count Cubs manager Joe Maddon as a fan of the Padres’ brown jerseys, which San Diego wears only for Friday night home games. “I love those. I think they’re the best uniform ever. Awesome, awesome. That uniform last night, you can’t beat that. They’re the best. I love them,” Maddon said.
The throwback unis are a nod to the mustard-and-mud color scheme of the 1980s. The Padres could go back to the brown, but not before 2020.
Cubs: LHP Jon Lester (11-2, 2.45) is scheduled to start the series finale, which will cost him his spot on the All-Star active roster. The Cubs have won his last eight starts and are 15-3 in his 18 starts.
Padres: Rookie LHP Eric Lauer (5-5, 4.50) will try to replicate his brilliant performance from Tuesday night, when he fell one out shy of his first complete game in a 4-1 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He allowed one run and four hits while striking out eight.
By BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports Writer, Associated Press