If there’s one thing the Cubs have taught us over the past couple years, it’s that if we live long enough and learn to believe, we’ll eventually be lucky enough to bear witness to something we never thought we’d see:
An interesting interleague matchup.
If you listen hard enough, you can hear Bud Selig off in the distance taking credit for Cubs/Red Sox as he rehearses his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. Which is noteworthy because interesting interleague matchups come around about as often as he cancels the World Series.
Tonight’s game lived up to the hype as much as any game in April can. The Cubs have had a habit over the past few weeks of giving up a few runs early and then playing the middle of the game like it’s a Fast & the Furious movie made up of just the dialogue. And then once the later innings roll around, it turns into all the parts of a Fast & the Furious movie where the only dialogue is “MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!”
This particular furious comeback almost made up an early 5-1 deficit but in the end, they couldn’t quite pull it off.
What You Need to Know: In 1774, the British Parliament punished the city of Boston for its eponymous Tea Party by passing the Intolerable Acts. These included closing the Port of Boston, the Quartering Act, and—most heinous of all—forcing the colonists to watch every pitch of Jake Arrieta’s first inning tonight.
Arrieta simply could not locate a thing to begin the game. Sensing this, Red Sox hitters laid off every breaking pitch until they got a hittable fastball or hanger and seemingly didn’t miss a single one. (Damn you, Theo, and your intelligent roster construction!)
The scoring began when Andrew Benintendi smoked a solo home run on an inside fastball that caused Boston’s bullpen cop to throw his arms in the air in jubilation, making all of Chicago wish that Kyle Schwarber were playing right field so that he could lead a pitch perfect swing choir rebuttal of “Gee Officer Krupke.”
The next six batters proceeded to reach base via line drive, grounder in the hole, or walk. By the time the dust had settled, the Cubs were down 5-1 and Arrieta had spent the first inning throwing 42 pitches—the most unnecessary tribute to Jackie Robinson in baseball history.
Next Level: The Cubs spent the rest of the game attempting to crawl back out of the hole. And lately, they’ve been doing that annoying thing where they don’t hit with runners in scoring position for several games until everybody starts calling The Score to complain the Cubs can’t hit in the clutch, and then they do.
Sometimes, the ability to hit with runners in scoring position revolves around the team happening upon the right situation in the lineup. For instance, Jason Heyward came up in the fourth and sixth innings with a runner on second base. Even in what has been a very pleasant rejuvenation season for him so far, he is still suffering from his career-long aversion to left-handed pitching—slashing .154/.214/.154 so far in 2017. It’s the only part of 2016 Cubs nostalgia that belongs in John Oliver’s tribute to that particular year.
On the mound was lefty Drew Pomeranz. And judging by the results, he could’ve simply held onto the ball and yelled “I’M THROWING YOU A CURVEBALL” and never finished the sentence before Heyward had swung three times. With Heyward hitting in front of Javy Baez, who is apparently under the impression that the World Series never ended, this created a hole in the Cubs’ lineup which the Red Sox were happy to exploit.
Top Play (WPA): However, sometimes the situation is like the seventh, where Albert Almora worked a well-earned walk and Anthony Rizzo pulled a two-out single just past a diving Dustin Pedroia. In this particular instance the Red Sox had flamethrowing Joe Kelly on the mound flirting with triple digits.
Unfortunately for him, the lineup had rolled around to Ben Zobrist who cares not a whit about what the radar gun says. After a wild pitch scored Almora, Zobrist promptly lined all 99 miles per hour of Joe Kelly’s great stuff into center field to score Rizzo and cut the deficit to one (+.101). At that moment, Fenway Park broke out in a “Let’s Go Cubbies” chant like its naming rights had suddenly been bought by Miller.
Bottom Play (WPA): And then sometimes the tying run is on second with two outs in the ninth and Addison Russell is at the plate. Which sounds awesome until you remember Craig Kimbrel is on the mound. Sigh. (-.116)
Up Next: The middle game of the series is a 3:05 pm affair. The Cubs will send out John Lackey, which means the Fenway Park mound will be the site of the most expletives spoken anywhere in Boston outside of the Good Will Hunting screenplay. He’ll be opposed by Steven Wright who will tell us all about that time he went to a restaurant that said “Breakfast anytime” so he ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.
Lead photo courtesy Bob DeChiara—USA Today Sports