How hot is Javier Baez? Cardinals manager Mike Schildt ordered him intentionally walked in the 11th inning on Tuesday night even though that meant putting the tying run on base.
The strategy worked as the Cardinals held on for a 7-6 victory over the Mets. Baez, who hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning, walked three times in a game for only the second time in his career.
Baez’s late-season resurgence hasn’t led to the Mets claiming a playoff spot. But will it earn the free-agent-to-be a lucrative contract from owner Steve Cohen in the offseason so Baez can stay for, say, the next 10 years or so with his childhood pal Francisco Lindor?
"I don’t know," Baez said before the Mets hosted St. Louis at Citi Field on Wednesday night. "We’ll see. I don’t have that decision right now. I’m just trying to put my up numbers, so we’ll see what happens in the offseason."
After a slow start and a stint on the injured list, Baez definitely has the numbers since joining the Mets in a deadline deal from the Cubs.
In 33 games since joining the Mets going into Wednesday, he was batting .310 with nine home runs, 18 RBIs and a .988 OPS. In 116 at-bats, Baez had nine walks and 36 strikeouts.
In his previous 12 starts, Baez was 21-for-45 (.467) with five home runs, 10 RBIs and a 1.445 OPS.
Overall, Baez was batting .264 with 31 HRs, 83 RBIs, an .831 OPS and a NL-leading 167 strikeouts.
Baez agreed to move to second to play with Lindor. It remains to be seen if the natural shortstop wants to sign with the Mets to do that longterm, but he said "for sure" when asked if he’s thought about teaming up with Lindor past this season.
"We did it in the [World] Baseball Classic," he said. "That solid combination and the communication that we had and that we have right here . . . We’ll see. We’ll make a decision at the end [of the season]."
Baez didn’t appear to be long for New York when he decided to use a thumbs-down gesture to simulate boos at Mets fans who had booed him during his early struggles. Baez and Lindor apologized for that misstep and both have played well since.
Baez has worked on curbing his tendency to swing at balls way out of the strike zone, manager Luis Rojas said, especially since he returned from the IL on Aug. 22
"I think the coaches have been talking to him here about pitch selection," Rojas said. "I just think that he’s always been aware that he’s a free-swinger. He expands too much. The presentation to him has come from different sources here, but you’ve got to give credit to him because he’s made a great adjustment. A lot of things have come after he got back from the IL . . . He’s been a lot better. He’s been getting ready a lot earlier, more grounded, staying back with his head to see the ball longer. He’s done a lot of really good things just to lay off pitches. A lot of credit to the player."
Baez, Lindor and many other players on both teams wore No. 21 on Wednesday in honor of MLB’s Roberto Clemente Day. Those two are from Puerto Rico, as was the late Hall of Famer.
Other Mets to wear the number included Puerto Ricans Edwin Diaz, Tomas Nido and Seth Lugo, plus Pete Alonso and Carlos Carrasco.
Alonso is the Mets’ nominee for MLB’s Roberto Clemente award, which honors charitable endeavors. Carrasco won the award in 2019 while playing for Cleveland.
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