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Must C Clutch: Baez goes deep in 12th for first homer

Javier Baez is coming home -- not that he's ever played there before.

When the Cubs and Rays open up a three-game series at 4:05 p.m. ET Friday at Wrigley Field, Baez, the club's No. 2 prospect, will make his home debut. Only time will tell if it produces a result at all similar to his Major League debut Tuesday -- when he hit the game-winning homer in extra innings -- but he's already looking forward to it.

"I think it's going to be more exciting than [Coors Field]," said Baez, who also noted that Starlin Castro promised he will take the rookie shopping for proper road-trip attire. "We're home, and we have all the support from the fans, and there are a lot of people who know you and they want you to do good."

In Baez's first three Major League games, he has five RBIs and three homers. The first long ball came in his debut on Tuesday, when he hit a solo homer to lift the Cubs over the D-backs in 12 innings. On Thursday, he went 3-for-4 with four RBIs -- including a solo shot and a two-run, opposite field homer.

"My expectations of him is to be here to learn, to grind out at-bats, to experience the opposition's ability to work him, for him to get a feel to play second base alongside Starlin and [Anthony Rizzo] on that side, and to continue to learn the game."

Baez and the rest of the Cubs lineup will face a tough test Friday in the form of Tampa Bay right-hander Chris Archer (3.42 ERA, 1.31 WHIP). Archer has been solid of late, stringing together three straight quality starts, although he allowed three runs in all of them. He beat the Angels in his last start, the Rays' only win in the series, with six innings, three runs and nine strikeouts.

The Rays haven't been meeting manager Joe Maddon's objective -- "win series" -- lately, but if they're going to make a playoff push, they'll need to change that soon. The series against cellar-dwelling Chicago comes at critical time for the Rays, who have lost two series in a row after a stretch where they won eight of their previous nine.

"It's hard to maintain that kind of level or that pace, there's no question about it," Maddon said. "That's why you want to be able to have a decent start [to the season], so that you can absorb these kind of moments at this time of the year. We've set it up to the point where we really can't."

The Rays will face Chicago left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada. Wada, who was released by the Cubs in the preseason, eventually returned to the team and made his Major League debut in July.

Wada has now made four starts with the Cubs, in which he is 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA. He tossed 5 2/3 innings of two-run baseball in his last start on Sunday.

Rays: Maddon says bats must produce
Tuesday marked one full turn of the Rays' rotation without Price, and the left-hander's absence was noticeable. In those five Price-less games, Rays starters lasted under five innings on average. Price, meanwhile, went 8 2/3 in his first outing for Detroit on Tuesday.

But Tampa Bay's bullpen was sharp, and the pitching staff didn't give up many runs. The greatest concern was the offense, which couldn't get a hit with runners in scoring position. Bases-loaded spots, especially, plagued the Rays.

"I think sometimes [we] try to get too much out of that play," Maddon said. "With two outs, of course, you've got to get a hit. With less than two outs, I think sometimes we try to get them all home, as opposed to just one of them home. Overall, throughout this whole season, we just haven't been very good."

In Wednesday's series finale against Oakland, though, the Rays' offense broke out for seven runs against July's American League Pitcher of the Month, Sonny Gray. They twice came through with the bases loaded, scoring three total runs.

Cubs: Renteria says Baez will handle excitement well
As Baez prepares for his Wrigley Field debut on Friday, Cubs manager Rick Renteria says the 21-year-old is well-equipped to handle the attention.

"I'm sure there will be a lot of excitement," Renteria said Thursday. "He's a young man who has been touted for a long time, and rightfully so. He's a very gifted, good looking young player. I think he'll be fine.

"This is a very mature young man, and I think he probably appreciates the support, but I think he has a grasp of being able to separate the nuances of everything that's around him and stay within himself and stay focused on the game," Renteria said.

"He's a young man and he'll still have struggles -- he'll have great days, bad days, good days, not so good days. It's all part of the process and that's why he's here."

Worth noting
• The Rays' pitching staff became the fastest ever to record 1,000 strikeouts in a season on Tuesday. They reached the mark in 113 games, dethroning the 2013 Tigers, who did it in 114.

• The Cubs reportedly claimed right-hander Jacob Turner off waivers from the Marlins on Wednesday. The club has not confirmed the transactions. Comments