The piece previewed here, written by BP Wrigleyville’s Editor-in-Chief Rian Watt, forms part of the main site’s comprehensive coverage of the playoffs, “Playoff Prospectus”. Additional Game One coverage, exclusive to BP Wrigleyville, can be found here, under the name “Second City October”.
David Ross doesn’t play all that often these days, what with Miguel Montero and Willson Contreras penciled in above him on the Cubs’ catching depth chart, but when he does—almost always every fifth day, whenJon Lester is pitching—he takes to the task with enormous seriousness of purpose. In his final big-league season, it’s his only chance to contribute to what has been a charmed season. As the league became increasingly aware that Lester—for whatever reason—doesn’t like to throw over to first, and so became increasingly enamored of taking the big lead and getting the early jump when Lester was pitching, Ross decided to take what had been a weakness and turn it into a strength.
That strength was on full display Friday night in Chicago, as Ross’ strong right arm helped set the defensive tone for the Cubs early, and kept them in the game against a red-hot Johnny Cueto. The first of two key moments came in the game’s first inning. Seconds after Gorkys Hernandez led off the game with a bunt single down the right-field line, Ross gunned him down going from first to second, with a quick pop and another nice tag by Javier Baez at the keystone (he’s making a habit of that). But it was the second moment that stood out.
Conor Gillaspie—San Francisco’s Wild Card hero—led off the third inning with a clean single to right, which prompted Anthony Rizzo (usually the Cubs’ first baseman) to switch out a 13-inch first-baseman’s glove for a smaller infield version–which he’s done before–and head out to short right to switch places with Baez, who manned first. On the very next pitch, it became clear why. Lester threw a fastball intentionally outside to Cueto, which allowed Ross to explode forward out of his crouch to catch it, fire to Baez, and record the out at the expense of a startled Gillaspie. It was planned, it was right there for everyone to see, and it was brilliant.
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Lead photo courtesy Jerry Lai—USA Today Sports.