Cubs' Javier Baez has Wrigley Field crowd buzzing
There was a noticeable buzz around Wrigley Field on Friday.
Call it the Baez buzz.
It was there before the game, as Cubs fans eagerly anticipated the Wrigley debut of second baseman Javier Baez.
And it was there even as Baez was striking out for a fourth time, in the 10th inning of a 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Baez, who hit 3 home runs over his first three big-league games on the recent road trip, got a big hand when he came to the plate in the first inning and hit a broken-bat single.
But even the strikeouts seemed to rev up the crowd of 34,937. Although Baez is going to swing and miss a lot, as he did Friday, he rarely gets cheated on swings -- and when he connects, the ball can go a long way.
"It happened -- and I keep throwing his name around -- but I remember it happening with Ken Griffey, Jr.," said Cubs manager Rick Renteria. "You think about (Gary) Sheffield. When those guys were starting to come through the big leagues, there was some excitement because you were talking about guys that generated quite and impact to the baseball."
There was more "whoosh" than impact Friday, and there are going to be days like that with Baez, who seemed to understand that.
"I wasn't nervous or anything," he said. "I just wasn't getting pitches on the plate and was swinging at bad pitches."
As far as the crowd reaction goes, it went about as expected for Baez.
"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I like them, too."
After Baez got his single in the first, he struck out in the third and the fifth. He came up in the eighth with Chris Coghlan on second and nobody out and struck out. He also fanned with one out in the bottom of the 10th as Rays reliever Brad Boxberger fed him an assortment of pitches.
The Cubs could have used some contact in the eighth, even if it was just to get the runner to third.
"I think he will, through this experience, gain something from it," Renteria said. "He knows the situation. To be honest with you, I don't want to take the bat out of his hands. I don't want to limit what he's going to do with the bats. I want him to have an approach that allows him to be able to take advantage of the skill he has. He really has been, in the three days he's been with us, pretty good. Today, it happened. Everybody wants to know what's going on. Nothing. It's going to be a process that he gains experience from."
As far as the rest of the game, Cubs starting pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada turned in a creditable effort as he gave up 4 hits and 2 runs in 6-plus innings. The Cubs surrendered 1-0 and 2-1 leads. Setup man Pedro Strop gave up a go-ahead run in the eighth before Ryan Sweeney's RBI single tied the game in the bottom of the ninth. Closer Hector Rondon (3-4) gave up a single to Kevin Kiermaier in the 10th, and that was the game-winner.
Renteria, who went through four pitchers in the seventh, was more than pleased with Wada.
"Wada threw well today," the manager said. "He deserved a better fate."