The Thursday Takeaway
For all of the advancements that have been made to analyze this sport in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of the game, baseball still has the ability to give us moments that shock and awe. The game between the Cubs and Cardinals on Thursday had its fair share of twists and turns, but it also delivered one of the weirdest moments that you’ll ever see in a baseball game.
The weirdness started with the rally that put the Cubs on the board in the fifth inning. Chicago found themselves in a three-run hole after a bobble on a double-play ball from Ben Zobrist eventually turned into a three-run rally for the Cardinals in the first inning. By the time the fifth inning rolled around, Lance Lynn was seemingly cruising toward a great start. He then succumbed to the Murderer’s Row of Jason Heyward, John Lackey, and Jon Jay. All three of them hit singles that led to Heyward scoring Chicago’s first run of the afternoon, which started off the comeback for the Cubs.
Both teams added runs in the following frames, but the run that Chicago scored in the sixth inning found its genesis in a leadoff double from Anthony Rizzo. The ball was hit to Matt Adams, who looked very much like a first baseman who is playing left field.
— smusial (@SimulacruMusial) April 6, 2017
Rizzo’s run made things 4-2 going into the seventh inning, which is when things got really weird. Brett Cecil started off the inning by striking out Matt Szczur, but the pinch-hitter got on first base thanks to a wild pitch that eluded Yadier Molina. The All-Star catcher had a strange experience with a wild pitch last year, but it’s safe to assume that this was easily the weirdest one that he’s dealt with in his entire career. The wild pitch ended up being stuck to his chest protector.
This moment of Cardinal Devil Magic ended up backfiring on the Redbirds, as the Cubs used the extra out to their full advantage. Cecil walked Jon Jay, and then Kyle Schwarber used his opportunity to smash the first pitch he saw into the seats in right field for a go-ahead three-run dinger.
On the surface, this just seems like a typical April game where the defending World Series champions showed resiliency and eventually took advantage of a lesser team tripping over themselves when they had the opportunity to win. That would undersell the weirdness of Chicago’s comeback and the wackiness of one of the most weirdest wild pitches of all time turning into a game-changing rally. It’s just proof that even in 2017, you can turn on a baseball game or go to the ballpark and still have a decent chance of seeing something that you’ve never seen before. Baseball is a strange animal.
Back on June 3, 2013, Yasiel Puig loudly announced his arrival to the big leagues with a two-homer game against the Padres on his second day as a big leaguer. Nearly four years later, the cacophony surrounding Puig may have quieted down a bit but that doesn’t mean that Puig’s done mashing. In fact, he pulled back memories of that two-homer game against the Padres by delivering another two-homer game against the Padres.
Puig wasn’t the only player who went deep on two occasions Thursday. The Braves lost in a manner that will probably be common in 2017—they were outclassed by a team that will probably finish ahead of them in the standings, but one of their big hitters had a decent night in a losing effort. Matt Kemp delivered the offensive fireworks as he hit a pair of massive dingers for the Braves in what was eventually a 6-2 victory for the Mets.
The Mets were able to pick up the series victory against the Braves because of Matt Harvey’s efforts on the mound. He went 6 2/3 innings against the Braves, and aside from Kemp turning two of his pitches into souvenirs for the fans at Citi Field, he was very solid on the bump.
Meanwhile, Nolan Arenado delivered the most dramatic homer of the day. The Rockies and Brewers were tied at one going into the top of the ninth inning, and the third pitch that Neftali Feliz delivered was promptly deposited into the bullpen for what was the game-winning homer for Colorado.
Michael Lorenzen has proven himself to be one of the best bullpen weapons that the Reds currently have. However, the Reds utilized him on Thursday in a different manner—they used him as a pinch-hitter. This wasn’t a case of a team deciding to throw a lamb to the metaphorical slaughter—the Reds were using him as an offensive weapon. Sure enough, Lorenzen delivered in a major way.
The Reds went on to win the game 7-4, and the 420-foot bomb from Lorenzen was the catalyst to victory. That was the first homer by a pinch-hitting pitcher since 2009, and if the Reds keep on giving him chances then it would be safe to assume that we won’t have to wait eight years for the next one.
Defensive Play of the Day
Jeff Mathis is having an interesting week. He was part of the two-out ninth-inning rally on Sunday that doomed the Giants to defeat, and on Thursday he made a sliding catch that doomed this one at-bat for Brandon Crawford to an out.
What to Watch on Friday
The Pirates weren’t in action on Thursday due to inclement weather in Boston, and the forecast for the home opener against the Braves isn’t looking good either. However, if the weather permits then we’ll have a frosty matinee game on our hands in Pittsburgh. Ivan Nova had a bit of a renaissance after being traded with the Pirates, and it’ll be interesting to see if the success he had at the tail end of 2016 translates into 2017. Meanwhile, Mike Foltynewicz has been tabbed as a dark horse for a potential breakout season. This isn’t exactly a matchup of two elite teams, but the pitching matchup makes this game worth keeping an eye on.
Meanwhile in Texas, the Rangers have a date with a player who tormented them on a regular basis during 2016: Khris Davis. Davis had 42 homers last season, and he hit 10 of them against the Rangers. What makes that even more impressive for Oakland’s slugger is that he did so in just 64 at-bats. In fact, when Davis reached the 40-homer mark in 2016, he did so with a two-homer game against—you guessed it—the Rangers.
The A’s have served as an annoying thorn in the Rangers’ side for the past two seasons now—they didn’t come close to approaching a .500 record overall during the past two seasons, but they’ve gone 19-19 against Texas in that span. Texas still managed to win the AL West last year, but you have to figure that they’ll probably want to start beating teams like the A’s on a regular basis, and they’ll try to do so on Friday night.