That might be the first time I’ve ever seen a player rounding third on a walk-off home run with a facial expression that said, “*Sigh*… Haven’t we done this before?”
Let the record show that I am perfectly fine with David Bote making #WalkoffYAWN a thing.
What You Need to Know: Hey, remember when the Cubs farm system was supposed to be barren and bereft of prospects? And then remember that time when MLB.com named 100 top prospects without mentioning Bote?
That’s looking like such a bad call, I’m going to assume the Top Prospect List was drawn up by the Washington Nationals HR department.
Today the Cubs and Reds hooked up in another classic Alec Mills/Matt Harvey pitchers duel that we’ve come to expect every time these two take the mound. Before the game even began, there was a halfway decent chance that Harvey wouldn’t show up at all as word spread that he was claimed by the Brewers and the two teams were looking to try to work out a deal.
It turned out that Milwaukee ended up turning down a Harvey trade like his Players Weekend nickname was “Vegan Options.” Which, sadly, meant that all of baseball missed out on the opportunity to witness the origin story of The Dark Knight of Fond du Lac.
Mills surprised everyone who wasn’t his mom with five and two-thirds innings of really solid pitching (more on him anon). Unfortunately, at the time Joe Maddon lifted him in the sixth inning with the Cubs trailing 1-0, it appeared that he was also removing the Cubs’ greatest offensive threat. To that point, he was the only Cub batter to record a hit against Harvey (Who chose “Harv” as his nom de plume, as opposed to a far superior option like “The Wonder Hamster.”)
Fortunately, the Cubs immediately tried to catch up on their recommended daily allowance of base hits all at once in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases on three consecutive singles and then watching Javy Báez line a fourth to right field to drive in the tying run. Sadly, that was followed by a rare moment where Anthony Rizzo went out of the strike zone and tapped a double play ball back to Hell on Lefties reliever Cody Reed to extinguish the threat.
The bullpen then held serve for the next two innings with the only blemish being a Carl Edwards Jr. leadoff walk to Dilson Herrera. Herrera, incidentally, chose “Dilly Dilly” for his jersey which I think we can all agree should be cause enough for the Reds organization’s second lifetime banishment from baseball.
After two quick outs in the bottom of the eighth, the Cubs looked to gain the upper hand with a Daniel Murphy solo home run but it was almost immediately negated by…
Bottom Play (WPA): … Eugenio Suárez jumping all over a two strike hanging slider from Pedro Strop to start the ninth with a game tying homer (-.332). There are times when a closer can get away with a mistake. When you’re pitching to the best hitter on a team whose roster also includes Joey Votto, that’s not one of them.
When the Reds brought in Raisel Iglesias to start the tenth, I thought that we all might be here a while…
Top Play (WPA): … and a Willson Contreras ground out followed by two quick strikes on Bote certainly made that appear to be the case. But then Iglesias decided that it was time for him to hang a two strike slider. With Bote at the plate in a situation where he could end the game, that might be the single worst decision in baseball history.
Bote currently has five home runs. One of them tied the game against Arizona in the ninth inning. One of them was the reason we call it The David Bote Game. And the latest one was positively atomized onto Waveland Avenue for the game winner (+.417 which honestly seems a little low for the hit that literally won the damn game.).
Perhaps the coolest thing about Bote walk offs is that you know it in the split second his bat connects with the ball. One of these days, he’s going to hit one so high and far that by the time it lands, every opposing player will have made it off the field.
Next Level: Let us sing the praises of Alec Mills. Before the game started, Len and JD mentioned that Mills had been previously used a couple of times in relief earlier in the year and I have to be honest… I had absolutely no memory of him in a Cubs uniform. If MLB Advanced Media wants to figure out the next wave of subscription-based technology, they’ll find a way to allow Cub fans to pay to swap in memories of Mills’ previous appearances for those of Kevin Gregg or Mel Rojas.
(Cut to six months later when I buy the Cubs from the Ricketts family and Paul Sullivan asks “So where did you make your money…?”)
From what little we knew, the Cubs took a flier on Mills a couple of offseasons ago thinking that he might have the same upside of a Kyle Hendricks-type. And that looked to be the case today as Mills’ fastball sat around 89-90 MPH and he mostly spotted it well on the edges of what appeared a very pitcher friendly strike zone from home plate umpire Larry Vanover. When he went for a strikeout, he mixed it with a change up and slider that both moved to the tune of eight strikeouts against only one walk.
It’s foolhardy to draw conclusions about a pitcher based on one start. But let’s give Mills this: he looked close enough to Hendricks today that his jersey should have read “The T.A.”
Up Next: The Cubs go for their third win of the series and fourth in a row as José Quintana takes on Luis Castillo.
Lead photo courtesy Matt Marton—USA Today Sports