In what might have been the most predictable moment of this weekend, ESPN began its coverage of tonight’s game with a cartoon featuring the Bambino sitting next to the Billy Goat. Apparently in the midst of all of the human resources carnage in Bristol last week, one of the people they fired was the guy in charge of finding a new narrative.
That looked to be the most unwatchable thing on the telecast. And then the bottom of the eighth rolled around, and I was begging Dan Shulman to put the cartoon back on the screen.
What You Need to Know: In spite of the frustrating ending, this series in Boston was so much fun that the Puritans have already banned it. Like the first two games of the set, this one was back and forth from the start.
Kyle Hendricks pitched for the first time in the town of MIT and Harvard, so it must have been nice to return to the home of his safety schools. He gave up a towering blast to Hanley Ramirez in the first and spent the rest of his night bending but not breaking for six innings.
Kris Bryant unleashed holy hell on an Eduardo Rodriguez center cut fastball in the fifth, launching it to deep left center over the Green Monster. At that point, ESPN told the story about Bryant’s father teaching him the hitting lessons of Ted Williams. As if to show he had learned all of the lessons of Teddy Ballgame, Bryant crossed the plate and refused to tip his hat to the Fenway faithful. The only way it could have been more perfect is if he invented a five syllable expletive to call Dan Shaughnessy.
Later on, an insane wild pitch and great baserunning by Jon Jay tied the game at 2-2 going into the eighth. And then things got unfortunate.
Next Level: We here at BP Wrigleyville like to live by the cold hard truths we find in the numbers. So here’s a number for you:
Koji Uehara is 42 Goddamn years old.
We’ve already seen Uehara be quite effective and efficient when used judiciously this season. But pitching him on back to back days is the exact opposite of that. Late last year, the Red Sox stopped using him on consecutive days altogether and were rewarded with several vintage Uehara performances worthy of numerous high fives. Granted, that was partially a response to injury but that only underscores the point that Joe Maddon needs to really be careful with measuring out his appearances.
Tonight, Uehara was tasked with getting through the eighth. He’s been used twice this season in back-to-back days. And it turns out that’s a great way to find out how the next reliever is going to handle a bases loaded, no out situation.
In this case, Pedro Strop struck out Mookie Betts but then threw one too many silders in the dirt and brought the go ahead run in on a wild pitch. And then some shoddy defense by Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo opened the floodgates further.
Top Play (WPA): Down 2-1, the Cubs put together a rally in the top of the 7th that was the result of a couple beautiful at bats and Jon Jay taking aggressive advantage of an opportunity presented to him in the moment.
Jay and Kyle Schwarber both worked walks from Joe Kelly, and then with the count 2-2 on Bryant, Kelly attempted to get him to chase a slider that bounced away from Christian Vazquez as Bryant checked his swing. Vazquez first appealed and then couldn’t locate the ball. Jay never hesitated as he steamed around third, slid headfirst, and appeared to touch the plate ahead of the tag.
However, Bruce Dreckman declared him out. Because the only person in the ballpark making worse calls than Dreckman tonight was the guy with the rejected scoreboard proposal. Replay quickly overturned it and the Cubs had tied the game (+.144).
Bottom Play (WPA): The Ramirez homer from the first (-.175) combined ALL THE NARRATIVES. Hendricks’s fastball was only 85 MPH. A Cubs starter gave up runs in the first inning. The only thing missing was if Theo Epstein caught the ball in between the 2004 and 2016 championship trophies.
Up Next: Even with an unfortunate finale, the Cubs ended the nine game road trip with a 5-4 record and that’s certainly not bad at all. They return home to Wrigley tomorrow night for the first of a four game set with the Phillies.
Lead photo courtesy Bob DeChiara—USA Today Sports