3/15 Cubs 7, Japan 5
Team Japan surprised some of the Cubs with their power but in the end, Javier Baez stole the show.
Baez hit a pair of home runs, including a walkoff two-run shot in the ninth, to power the Cubs to a 7-5 victory over Team Japan in an exhibition game Friday. With the game tied at 5, Christian Villanueva doubled to lead off the ninth against Takeru Imamura. Baez then launched the first pitch he saw over the left field fence for the winner.
As Baez was headed to the plate in the ninth inning Friday with the Cubs tied at 5 against Team Japan, he told Welington Castillo, who was on deck, to relax.
“I said, ‘You’re not hitting,'” Baez said.
Castillo didn’t have to. Baez also hit a solo shot in the seventh, which closed the gap to 5-4, and the Cubs tied the game in the eighth on Dan Vogelbach’s RBI single.
The Japanese team may have been a little jet lagged. They arrived in Arizona late Tuesday, and played the Giants on Thursday. The next stop is San Francisco for the semifinal round of the World Baseball Classic.
“It was a real baseball game — it wasn’t really a Spring Training baseball game,” Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk said of the close contest.
Baez, the Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick in 2011, said the last walkoff home run he could remember came in high school.
“[The first homer,] I was just sitting on a fastball, and he threw me two, and I missed them, and then he threw me a fastball inside,” Baez said. “I was patient at the plate. [In the ninth] with a man on second, I knew he’d throw a slider or a curveball, and he threw me a slider and I hit it hard and hit it over the fence.”
This was Baez’s third spring home run, although the statistics from the exhibition game won’t count in the Cactus League stats.
— Carrie Muskat