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Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo earns his 2nd Gold Glove award

Anthony Rizzo earned his second Gold Glove award at first base Sunday, the only Cub to be honored for defensive excellence in 2018.

Rizzo, who also won a Gold Glove in 2016, tied with Freddie Freeman among National League first basemen, the fourth tie in Gold Glove history.

Javier Baez was beaten out by former Cub DJ LeMahieu among NL second basemen, while right fielder Jason Heyward, who had won four straight Gold Gloves, lost out to the BravesNick Markakis.

White Sox center fielder Adam Engel, who made several over-the-wall catches to rob hitters of home runs during the summer, was a finalist in the American League, losing to the Red Sox’s Jackie Bradley Jr.

The coveted fielding award is voted upon by players, managers and coaches, while an analytic component makes up 25 percent of the final tabulation.

Rizzo didn’t have many highlight-reel plays in 2018, compared with past years, when he jumped up on the brick wall to catch foul balls in the stands. But his overall consistency was rewarded, leaving him two Gold Gloves behind Mark Grace among Cubs first basemen.

The Cubs have won a Gold Glove in three consecutive seasons for the first time since a four-year run from 2004 to 2007, when pitcher Greg Maddux earned three (2004-06) and first baseman Derrek Lee won in 2005 and 2007.

Heyward’s loss was a bit of a surprise, though he didn’t have as strong a year as in 2016 or ’17. His reputation for defensive excellence is so established that he may be held to a more stringent standard than most outfielders.

Baez, who is likely to start at shortstop in 2019, had another stellar year defensively and is considered the best defensive player on the team. Though his defensive wizardry has been on display in Chicago for the last four seasons, he is yet to be honored for his fielding.

At the All-Star Game, Cubs starter Jon Lester called Baez the best infielder he’s ever had as a teammate, pointing to his versatility and suggesting sometimes during a game “you feel (as if) it’s going backward for him, it’s so slow.”

But Baez started only 75 games at second base in ’18. He started 52 games at shortstop, finishing the season there after Addison Russell was placed on administrative leave by MLB after his ex-wife, Melisa Reidy-Russell, accused him of physical and emotional abuse. With Kris Bryant missing time with a shoulder injury, Baez also had 18 starts at third base.

Whether Baez’s relatively small number of starts at second factored into the voting is unknown.

The actual numbers are not revealed by Rawlings, which sponsors the award and conducts the voting.

Twitter @PWSullivan

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