My brain hurts.
But as of the top of the ninth inning…in a good way.
What You Need to Know: It was a night where as soon as any Braves player got on base, he turned into Ryan Theriot. And as soon as any umpire had to make a close call, he turned into Angel Hernandez.
In other words, it was the most beautiful baseball catastrophe the Cubs have had the good fortune to participate in since that time when they tried to play the Braves in the middle of The Day After Tomorrow.
But for most of the night, they appeared not to be interested in taking the gift. Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz was consistently sitting in the upper 90s and Cubs hitters not named Bryant or Contreras just couldn’t square him up.
Perhaps, as Len and JD suggested, he was jacked up to face his hometown team. Because with a name like Foltynewicz, of course he’s from Minooka. Until the ninth inning, the biggest upset of this game was that Foltynewicz wasn’t a police office in a John Mulaney bit. There’s a 100 percent chance that he refers to the home of the Bears as “Soldiers Field” and his local grocery store as “Da Jewels.”
Yu Darvish was up to the task for the oddly brief time he was in the game, limiting the Braves to an Ender Inciarte solo homer while striking out five in four innings. There was a lot of speculation on #CubsTwitter as to why Joe Maddon lifted him so soon. But it was abundantly clear: he wanted to give Steve Rosenbloom as much time as possible to find the perfect rejected Andy Borowitz punchline to question the character of a player he’s never met.
Anyway, enough dilly dallying. Let’s pull out our Krusty the Clown gifs and get to a special section called…
What the Hell Was That?
Where to begin? Well, let’s go back to the first inning when Freddy Freeman drew a two-out walk and then took off on a stolen base attempt. Contreras’s peg hit Freeman in the leg and bounced into a no man’s land (which in Cobb County is defined as “any 20 square feet of space without a Waffle House”) in left field.
Freeman stumbled his way toward third, paused to peek at where the ball was, and decided to take off for the plate. And he would’ve gotten away with it too if the ball was picked up by a lesser fielder than Kyle Schwarber.
Yeah, I said it.
Look, we all know about Schwarber moments in left field. But here’s the thing…his FRAA currently sits at 0.9.
I’ve had our numbers people run over 10 thousand simulations. And they’ve concluded that that is a positive number.
And if baserunners keep challenging his arm, Schwarber’s going to win a Goddamn Gold Glove. He fired an absolute seed to the plate that landed in Contreras’s glove at the exact same time as Freeman’s leg did.
Perhaps it’s time to start calling him Kyle Schwarbiano.
And then there was the fifth inning. A combination of a shaky Mike Montgomery and an ugly Javy Baez error on a sure double play ball left runners on first and third and no out. Fortunately, a World Series Hero like Montgomery knew exactly what to do: time for a wild pitch to Ozzie Albies!
Hell, that’s about the only way to keep him from hitting a line drive against Cub pitching.
Said wild pitch bounced directly off the bricks behind the plate to Contreras who relayed a missile back to Montgomery. He planted the tag on the headfirst sliding Johan Camargo and plate umpire Jim Wolf called him out.
But replays appeared to show Camargo got his hand on the plate so Brian Snitker asked for a challenge. And after several minutes, New York apparently determined that there was no angle showing Camargo’s hand touching the plate first so the call was upheld.
Snitker then appeared to sing the chorus of his favorite Cee Lo Green song. Repeatedly.
Amazingly enough, Montgomery then uncorked another pitch in the dirt that briefly got past Contreras. This time Charlie Culberson took off for third and he was called out by Sam Holbrook. Despite the fact that he was clearly safe at the exact moment when the Braves no longer had their challenge.
The Atlanta crowd booed lustily into the night. And hey, that was fine. Because it was the least racist thing they chanted all evening.
Bottom Play (WPA): It all appeared for naught as wünderkind Ronald Acuña Jr. launched a go-ahead home run to dead center with two outs in the bottom of the eighth off of Carl Edwards Jr. (-.316)
Top Play (WPA): Except remember the fake rally that left the bases loaded yesterday?
Tonight, the Cubs finished the job.
Albert Almora Jr. laced a one-out line drive to left field and turned it into a double with some serious Respect 180 baserunning. And then Addison Russell had the at-bat of the night, spitting on several nasty Arodys Vizcaino sliders like he was trying to remind Vizcaino he was once traded for Paul Maholm.
Finally, on a full count, Russell launched a game-tying double off the center field wall (+.330) as if to say “ninth inning line drives are much better when they’re not right at Acuña.”
Then after a hard hit grounder to second from Tommy LaStella, Ben Zobrist worked the count to 2-1 and lined a base hit exactly where the shortstop would have been playing were he not shifted to the right side of the field for the game winner (+.333).
There was no camera on Anthony Rizzo. But I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that at that exact moment he placed his hands on top of his helmet and yelled “OH MY GOD.”
Up Next: The middle game of the series features Tyler Chatwood against Brandon McCarthy. This is the first time in major league history where one pitcher’s walks per game exactly matches the other’s average number of retweets.
Lead photo courtesy Jason Getz—USA Today Sports