Hey look, the Cubs can beat the Padres!
That feels like leading the sports page with a 72 point headline screaming “WASHINGTON GENERALS LOSE.”
Normally, it should not be this exhilarating to beat the Padres. And yet it certainly is tonight. Hell, the only reason you should be exhilarated in a game with the Padres is if you can name three of them.
For six and a half innings, this one seemed like so many other games from 2017 that have all blended together into a big ball of frustration. Once again, it was as if the team was playing like they had learned we’ve pledged the contents of our swear jars to Cubs Care at the end of the season. They were sucking…for the kids!
And then the last two innings happened. Thank you God, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad, and Ryne Sandberg.
What You Need to Know: Lost in the wake of Anthony Rizzo transitioning into THE GREATEST LEADOFF HITTER OF ALL TIME, Willson Contreras has been pretty amazing as well over the past week. Since last Tuesday, he’s gone 7-for-20 with four doubles and a home run.
Oh yes…about that home run? It tied up the game in the seventh inning after the Cubs somehow wasted a leadoff double and triple in the previous two innings. Contreras took a 1-2 high outside fastball from Clayton Richard and lined a shot to right center field, leaping in the air and letting out a primal scream that made anyone within listening range assume David Caruso had just put on a pair of sunglasses.
And the rally continued as Javy Baez lined a single in the second base hole bringing up Albert Almora…
Next Level: Tonight was an evening to sit back and appreciate all of the skills Baez brings to every facet of his game. For a player known for his almost comically giant pull swing, every now and again he’ll surprise you by reining in his natural instinct to reduce a baseball to its component molecules and hit the ball where it’s pitched. Such was the case with the above-mentioned base hit.
He then proceeded to get a huge jump on the first pitch to Almora, who lined a sharp single to left field. And Javy just kept on going at full speed ahead (19.2 MPH according to Statcast) which forced Jose Pirela to clank his attempt to field the ball. That was all it took for Javy to race around third and score the go ahead run in all of 9.8 seconds.
And somehow, on a night where he made a throwing error, Baez’s defense also shone brightly with two gorgeous plays in the eighth and ninth innings. With the tying run on second in the eighth, spellcheck villain Franchy Cordero hit a sharp grounder up the middle off of Koji Uehara. Baez played it smoothly on the backhand as if there were no place it could go but into the webbing of his glove and threw him out with no wasted motion.
For good measure, Cory Spangenberg (who sounds like Kevin Kline’s Fish Called Wanda character trying to come up with a fake name when caught on the soundstage of a Nickelodeon show from the 1980s) led off the ninth by bouncing a ball off of Wade Davis’s glove. Baez simply changed his route to the ball as if it were perfectly natural, took his time, and unleashed a throw completely under control to retire Spangenberg by a step. This would come up big since Davis was intent on making the ninth a Hitchcockian experience.
Top Play (WPA): So about that ninth inning…
Davis proceeded to hit Pirela in the shoulder with his next pitch. On a 1-2 offering to Yangervis Solarte, he bounced a curveball in the dirt to move the tying run into scoring position. He then proceeded to walk Solarte and bring up Wil Myers. And again, he bounced a curveball for another wild pitch, moving the runners at second and third.
By the way, in case you’re curious, Davis also has a cutter, a sinker, and a change up. I’m told that some of those even make it to the catcher’s mitt in the air. It seemed like this might be a good time to call one of those other pitches.
Like a 95 MPH high fastball. Myers swung through it for strike three (+.246). Davis proceeded to get Hunter Renfroe to ground back to the mound and we got to hear what “Go Cubs Go” sounded like from 40,000 people simultaneously going through the late stages of a coronary.
Bottom Play (WPA): Davis’s second wild pitch (-.167).
Honorable mention: Solarte’s home run in the third to put the Padres up 2-0 (-.106). It was caught on the fly by a fan in the front row of the left field bleachers who proceeded to throw it back and then flash the double bird in close-up just before CSN could cut away.
Which should be standard procedure in any game against the Padres since you never know when Steve Garvey is in the building.
How Have I Barely Talked About This: Did I mention that Anthony Rizzo is THE GREATEST LEADOFF HITTER OF ALL TIME? Tonight, he showed off everything he brings to the table with a bunt single in the first inning, demonstrating that he can leg out any hit to the infield as long as no fielder is within 50 feet of the ball.
His sac fly in the 3rd barely missed being a three run homer and still netted the Cubs their first run of the game. And he also led off the sixth with the aforementioned triple as the Cubs were desperate for any kind of rally against Richard’s sinker. Unfortunately, Rizzo was thrown out at the plate by old friend Matt Szczur.
Up Next: Hey, look at this! The Cubs are over .500! If they decided to stay there for the rest of the year, I would find that decidedly acceptable. They’ll begin the quest to do that tomorrow night when Mike Montgomery takes the mound against Jhoulys Chacin. One of them is a World Series hero. The other should be given at least a five game suspension for illegal use of H.
Lead photo courtesy Patrick Gorski—USA Today Sports