The Bad News: Before tonight’s game, the Cubs announced that Brandon Morrow was shut down for the rest of the year and wouldn’t be available to pitch in the postseason.
What You Need to Know:
“Really? Our closer can’t finish off the postseason? Oh no, whatever shall we…*unbuttons jersey* hey, what’s this giant S doing on my undershirt?”
Historically speaking, this is precisely the situation where Montgomery thrives. His outing tonight lasted slightly longer than two pitches but he was just about as effective as he was on November 2, 2016.
The World Series Hero perplexed and befuddled the Arizona lineup for six spectacular innings. After spending most of the year as a soft contact groundball specialist, Montgomery showed an unexpected proclivity for generating swings and misses tonight, setting a new season high with eight strikeouts.
He did so by mostly relying on a hellacious changeup for a wipeout pitch. After Kyle Hendricks shut down the D-Backs yesterday with similarly brilliant offspeed stuff, tonight Montgomery was promoted to Adjunct.
Meanwhile, Arizona entered the game with their pitching in a state of crisis. The Diamondbacks’ ERA for September sat at 5.41. And their relievers in particular were the dregs of the staff, as the D-Back bullpen sported a 5.07 ERA since the All-Star Break.
It was the statistical version of Archie Bradley’s beard. Hard to look at and inspiring the question: “You paid money for this?!”
So naturally, Arizona decided to make tonight a bullpen game. And it played out exactly like what would happen if The Purge was written by Brian Kenny.
Matt Andriese was the nominal starter and the Cubs offense wasted no time in crying havoc and letting slip the dogs of war. After home runs by Javy Báez and Daniel Murphy, an RBI double by Ian Happ, and one of the most epic at-bats of the year by Anthony Rizzo (more on that anon), Andriese had allowed five runs in two innings and approximately 137 pitches.
After that, a succession of Arizona relievers resulted in two outcomes: even more runs and Len Kasper slinging dad jokes as if Andy Borowitz hacked into his earpiece. My personal favorite was dubbing Silvino Bracho as “Bracho Marx.” He’s the only player in baseball history whose last name works as a Groucho pun at the same time as his first name sounds like a Chico character.
If Bracho’s entrance music is anything other than “Hooray for Captain Spalding,” the entire Chase Field ballpark ops crew should be sacked.
Next Level: In the first inning, for the brief period of time when this could have still been considered a game, Anthony Rizzo had the kind of at-bat that ends with “A Peter Jackson Film.”
With Murphy on first base, Rizzo quickly fell behind 0-2. However, on the second strike of the AB, Arizona catcher Jeff Mathis attempted to show all of us that we need to appreciate Willson Contreras much more than we currently do by airmailing a pickoff throw well over Paul Goldschmidt’s head into right field. Suddenly, the Cubs had a runner on third and Rizzo was choking up on the bat looking to B-hack his way into the first RBI of the night.
He fouled off a pitch. And another. And another. Everything Andriese had to offer met with the same result. Curveball low and in. Curveball low and away. High fastball. Foul. Foul. Foul.
By the tenth pitch, it was already reminiscent of Rizzo’s game-changing walk against the Nationals back in August. And still it kept going. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Rizzo appeared to be in swing mode but he was also ever so slowly working the count from 0-2 to 3-2…
Fourteen. Fifteen. By this point, Chase Field had once again turned into Sloan Park Slightly West. Cub fans were making so much noise that it was kind of surprising the D-Backs didn’t try to drown them out with that ridiculous snake rattle that sounds exactly like a pair of maracas. (Because nothing intimidates the opposition like a noise that calls to mind the phrase: “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome…Charo!”)
Sixteen. By the time this at bat was over, both Morrow and Yu Darvish were going to be reactivated and ready to pitch in Game 1 of the playoffs.
Finally, on the seventeenth pitch, Rizzo crushed an outside fastball that appeared to be headed up the middle for an RBI single. But Nick Ahmed was shifted precisely into that location and made a great diving catch for an extremely frustrating second out of the inning. If this was any indication, it certainly felt for a second like the Cubs offense might have been in for another rough night against bad pitching…
Top Play (WPA): …until the very next batter. Javy Báez worked the count to 2-0 and then destroyed an outside fastball 408 feet to right center (+.157). It landed just to the left of the pool. Because Javy didn’t want to wreck any more of Chase Field’s plumbing than he already had.
As both Len and JD pointed out, Rizzo definitely earned an assist for that one.
Bottom Play (WPA): The Diamondbacks’ lone run was a Ketel Marte solo homer to left field in the second inning (-.051). Their home run siren made it sound like everyone in Chase Field was about to get a visit from the Ice Cream Bunny.
Up Next: The Cubs go for the ultra-rare Arizona sweep tomorrow night as Cole Hamels opposes Robbie Ray.
Lead photo courtesy @Cubs on Twitter