They call him El Mago, but this wasn't magic from Javy Báez as much as it was comically bad fielding by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
In Thursday afternoon's Cubs-Pirates game, Báez, Chicago's shortstop fooled Pittsburgh first baseman Will Craig into delaying a tag on a fielder's choice that would've ended the third inning.
It started when Báez launched a grounder to Pirates third baseman Erik González, whose throw to first was slightly off target to the left of the bag. Craig caught the throw but left first base. Báez retreated back toward home plate down the basepath and Craig absentmindedly jogged back toward the plate to tag Báez.
Cubs shortstop Javy Baez is a free agent after the 2021 season. (Photo: Rick Scuteri, USA TODAY Sports)
Since Craig wasn't rushing to tag Báez with any urgency, that allowed Cubs catcher Willson Contreras, who started the at-bat on second base, to sprint towards home, where he slid in safely. Craig tossed the ball softly to Pirates catcher Michael Pérez.
Contreras slid just below the tag. Báez, still just feet from home plate, excitedly gestured a safe call before realizing that first base was unoccupied. Báez ran to first.
Pérez's throw to Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier, who was coming to back up and occupy the empty base, was off target and dribbled into the outfield. Báez then took second base, where the throw from the outfield, also, was off target.
The Magician. pic.twitter.com/yZX7HgUFCU
The play came with two outs and a quick tag of Báez or first base would've ended the inning. Instead, the play was ruled as a fielder's choice, with a throwing error given to Pérez for his throw to first.
The Contreras run gave Chicago a 2-0 lead. On the following play, Cubs outfielder Ian Happ singled and Báez scored.
He would be safe at second base 30 seconds later pic.twitter.com/SiYwICpKch
By the end of the fourth inning, the Cubs were holding on to a 4-2 lead.
The Pirates (18-30) have the third-worst record in the MLB.
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