That was a slog. But…the good kind?
It was the kind of night where announcers fill time by saying things like, “Well, that wasn’t an oil painting but it got the job done.” This one was about four years of Bob Ross videos away from being Dogs Playing Poker.
At 7:05 pm tonight, Kerwin Danley said “Play ball.” And that was the last time the game had any pace at all. The Cubs’ vivisection of the Mets lasted all of three hours and 42 minutes and felt like it. This wasn’t a baseball game so much as a Rob Manfred diss track.
Nonetheless, the Cubs gained a game on the Cardinals. So I’m putting this in the team picture for game of the year.
What You Need to Know: Tonight’s match-up was brought to you by the letters “BB” and the numbers 3 and 2.
If you think of the strike zone as a map of downtown Chicago, then Jon Lester spent the first three innings throwing to Buffalo Grove, Mount Prospect, and Tinley Park. It was eerily reminiscent of Lester’s last start in Pittsburgh, in which he racked up over 70 pitches in the first three innings and then somehow locked it in to give the Cubs another three quick and solid frames. It was a classic WC Fields game: bending but not breaking.
Meanwhile, Matt Harvey and the rest of the Mets pitching staff gave up 11 walks. Ye gods. For them, it was a classic Rob Schneider game: unwatchable.
This is the third time the Cubs scored 17 runs this year but oddly enough, it felt different. Mostly because they didn’t hit their first home run until Javy Baez flashed back to the NLDS with a left field basket shot in the seventh.
Before that, the Cubs actually put together some really good at bats with runners in scoring position. They drove in a couple in the first with well-timed groundouts from Willson Contreras and Ian Happ. Anthony Rizzo also plated a couple of runs with bases loaded walks.
And they managed to survive the worst baserunning play in the history of baseball…
Next Level: This is going to end with praise. Really. But first, we have to take a look at that play in the third inning…
The horror. The horror.
With the score tied 2-2 and Contreras and Happ on base with two out, Jason Heyward hit a ground ball to second base. At this point, that sounds like lazy screenwriting but this one has a twist…the ball got under Jose Reyes’s glove. That’s good! Contreras was running with the pitch, and he was almost definitely going to score.
Except…Juan Lagares fielded the ball in short center and fired a laser to third base ahead of the trailing Happ. Gary Jones put on a piece of interpretive choreography entitled “GOD DAMMIT, SLIDE!”
Unfortunately, Ian Happ thinks modern dance is gauche.
He remained on his feet and arrived at third base like a pregnant heifer on a treadmill. Asdrubel Cabrera tagged him for the final out in the inning. But that’s still OK because the Cubs had the lead, right?
Um…yeah. About that…
On his way to the plate, Contreras craned his head over his shoulder to watch the play at third. Because he’s trained to watch his third base coach and dammit, he’s gonna do it even as he’s five feet away from touching the plate! #fundamentals The Mets made the third out before Contreras crossed home, and the run didn’t count.
That’s weird… I thought the Starlin Castro tribute was supposed to come in the Yankees series.
At that point, everybody watching this game (including your meatball correspondent) desperately wished Joe Maddon could be possessed by the spirit of Bobby Cox and make an example out of the two baserunning miscreants.
Except (and here comes the good part) doing so would have prevented Contreras from redeeming himself the very next inning. With the bases loaded, Contreras laced a sharp single into left field.
And here’s the really good part: this play emphasized yet again how great an all-around player Kris Bryant is. Contreras’s laser stayed in the air until finally touching the ground about five feet in front of Nori Aoki. But Bryant read it perfectly on second base and never hesitated in speeding around third and scoring an extra run on the play. The Cubs were up by three and things felt a bit more comfortable.
Coming one inning after the Alphonse and Gaston play in the third, it was incredibly reassuring to see that kind of brilliant base running. Bryant’s not going to be MVP this year, but this was yet another example of how valuable he still is.
Top Play (WPA): See above (+.105). It was set up by Rizzo’s first bases loaded walk. Even the Cubs couldn’t run into an out on that play as Ronny Cendeño is no longer active.
Bottom Play (WPA): I think Jon Lester says a few too many f-bombs to be a Buddhist but he nonetheless posed the question: if a cutter doesn’t cut, is it still a cutter?
Nope. It’s a leadoff homer to Jose Reyes. (-.099)
Up Next: The Cubs go for the sweep tomorrow night. The Mets will send Seth Lugo to the mound, while the Cubs will give Jen-Ho Tseng his first major league start with two and a half weeks to go in a pennant race. Which means they don’t have anyone on the bench whose job is to ask Joe Maddon questions like “Wait…really?”
Lead photo courtesy Kamil Krzaczynski—USA Today Sports