LOS ANGELES -- No Kris Bryant? No problem.
Hours after putting the former MVP on the disabled list because of a sore shoulder, the Chicago Cubs put their losing streak in the rearview mirror with a break-out-the bats 9-4 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In truth, only a single player did most of the damage: Javier Baez was a one-man show, worth the price of admission by himself. He went 4-for-5 with two home runs as the 25-year-old infielder provided exactly the energy the Cubs needed.
He almost always does.
"He's probably my favorite player to watch," winning pitcher Jon Lester said after the game. "I've got to play with, and in front of, some really good infielders in my career. I think Javy has surpassed all those guys."
Lester's not too shabby himself -- the victory raised his June record to 5-0 with a 1.13 ERA -- but he'll have to take a back seat to El Mago ("The Magician") as it wasn't just Baez's offense that entertained.
Baez didn't rush a run-down play at third base when Cody Bellinger took off for home on a ground ball in the second inning. After eventually tagging him out, he fired over to first with a rocket throw to nab Yasiel Puig, who had made a slight turn toward second after reaching on the grounder. Baez must have seen Puig's move out of the corner of his eye, because no one else did. It was a huge play in the game.
"He took two steps towards second after he passed first base," Baez said. "I went for it, to get him in between."
The "Baez game" came with him starting at third base Tuesday, where Bryant usually starts. As Bryant rehabs -- and tries to find his power swing as well -- the Cubs will need others to step up just like his fill-in did. A batters-only meeting with hitting coach Chili Davis before the game might have paid off as 15 hits and five walks produced one of the best offensive outputs for the Cubs in recent memory.
"That's one of the things we touched on," Davis said after the meeting but before the game. "Put pressure on the pitcher. The more pressure we put on him the more mistakes they'll make."
It's as if Davis had a crystal ball because that's exactly what his hitters did just a few hours later. For example, with the bases loaded in the sixth, Dodgers reliever Yimi Garcia had to pitch to Baez, even though the infielder already had three hits and a home run. Do you think he gets a pitch to hit if a base or two was open? He got something he could hit, and delivered the grand slam that made this his game.
Clogging up the basepaths is what the Cubs do best, and they will thrive or die on their ability to get on base. They led the league in on-base percentage each of the past two seasons and do so again now -- but their numbers have been falling. Over the past week, the Cubs' OBP was just .299. That all changed Tuesday.
"I want power and I want the little dumper to the right side," Joe Maddon said. "As a hitter you have to know when to pull out the driver and when to pull out the 6-iron. It's a repetitive process, it's redundancy. And a good hitting coach does that, like Chili did."
The meeting paid off but only because their sparkplug led the way. Cubs bats were quiet until the Baez show began. Perhaps he had an inkling he was performing in front of the largest regular-season crowd (53,904) in the majors since 2012. After all, the Cubs are near Hollywood, right where Baez belongs.
"I love L.A," he said. "I just don't like the traffic."