To hell with Disney World. If your kids ever ask to go to the Happiest Place on Earth, take them to Cleveland. And when they burst out crying, calmly explain to them that we have tangible proof that it’s the only city on the planet where dreams actually come true.
Tonight the Cubs returned to Progressive Field for the first time since November 2, 2016. Because when you think of the Happiest Place on Earth, the first image that pops into your mind is an insurance company. I think we can all agree that Jacobs Field was a much better name.
Then again, I also think we can all look at the sleeve patch on Cleveland’s uniform and ask, “Really? Your first priority was changing the name of the ballpark?”
I know this is a hot button issue but personally, I’m in favor of restoring the Cleveland American League Baseball Club to its original name from 1903. Because no one has yet considered the total awesomeness inherent in the potential mascot for a team called the Cleveland Naps.
I nominate Kyle Farnsworth.
As you might expect, there were many details in tonight’s game that couldn’t help but make you flash back to the Greatest World Series Ever. Both teams were dressed in their blue alternate jerseys. The game was played in a steady rain. Kyle Schwarber was DHing.
Apparently even Cleveland’s telecast got into the spirit of things, opening with a clip of the Rajai Davis home run. Which is like the Academy Awards beginning their broadcast with a clip of Faye Dunaway proclaiming “The Oscar goes to La La Land…”
One rather unfortunate difference was that after being hit in the head by a German Marquez pitch on Sunday, Kris Bryant was rested for another day. Which was a bit of a shame as “This is gonna be a tough play… La Stella…” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
What You Need to Know: Tonight was another Bunches of Runs Game which, as I have noted before, is always pretty damn sweet. But the Cubs’ approach this evening was different than previous Bunches of Runs Games where they put a lot of balls in play and repeatedly hit line drives to the opposite field.
Instead, for variety’s sake, they decided to go with a mix of that approach and pure, hellacious power.
Willson Contreras launched a missile just to the left of the bleachers for his first homer of the year. Ian Happ appeared to be snapping out of his slump with a line drive that just snuck over the wall in left—one of three hits for the stone-faced one.
And Kyle Schwarber just about violated the Geneva convention on a couple of baseballs. He was greeted with a downpour of boos in his first at bat and on a 2-1 pitch, unloaded a line drive that looked like it could have reversed the earth’s rotation and taken us all back in time to a date when Cub fans were still that bitter.
That ball got out of Cleveland so fast that ESPN just gave it a one hour special.
He wasn’t done. Leading off the fourth, he launched an authentic Schwarbomb to right on a 2-0 curve from Josh Tomlin that seemed placed in the exact perfect spot to cause maximum pain to the baseball. The best DH in Cub history continued to destroy anyone who dared ascend the pitchers mound at Progressive Field.
There’s an 80 percent chance he shows up tomorrow dressed as Flo.
Next Level: Power was only a part of what made tonight’s game fun. There was also sterling defense from Toastmaster General Jason Heyward. This was especially impressive since, given the rainy conditions, Heyward spent his time between every pitch memorizing the screenplay from Braveheart.
Cleveland’s biggest threat happened in the bottom of the third with a leadoff bunt single from Bradley Zimmer and the mandatory Tyler Chatwood walk of the inning being awarded to Davis. After an RBI groundout to Secret Best Fan in Baseball Jason Kipnis (#trader) made it a 3-1 game, José Ramírez continued his torrid hitting with a line drive single to right for what appeared to be Cleveland’s second run of the night.
Except Heyward charged it and the ball that launched out of his arm looked like something Schwarber would have hit in the opposite direction from home plate. Contreras made the catch and put a swipe tag on the stunned Davis for the third out of the inning.
Terry Francona decided to challenge and after about two minutes of replay, the verdict came in from New York: Thank you for letting us watch Jason Heyward be awesome from five different angles.
Heyward later made a fine sliding catch on a sinking liner from Kipnis in the sixth which was all the fun parts of watching him in the field. Off the bat, you thought it was a hit. Watching it head toward the outfield, you were sure it was a hit. Until you saw Jason Heyward gliding after it completely under control. Even before he slid, something in the back of your mind said “He’s out.”
Top Play (WPA): Schwarber’s first homer (+.101) had an Autobahnish exit velocity of 117 MPH. According to Len Kasper, it was the hardest home run ever recorded by a Cub.
Somewhere, Glenallen Hill was muttering “… only because they don’t have a radar gun on the rooftops…”
Bottom Play (WPA): Rajai Davis continued to torment the Cubs and be nightmare fuel for the fanbase with his… third inning walk? (+.062) Um… sure. Damn you, Rajai Davis!!!
Up Next: The Cubs look to run their winning streak against Cleveland to five as Jon Lester makes a rare Progressive Field appearance as a starter against Trevor Bauer.
Oh yeah, and then there’s this: Cleveland apparently replaced the visiting clubhouse carpeting since the last time the Cubs played there. Because try as their janitorial services might, they just couldn’t remove the stench of victory.
The biggest upset of the night is that they were somehow able to get rid of the old carpet without Crane Kenny selling it to Cub fans for $200 an inch.
Lead photo courtesy Ken Blaze—USA Today Sports