The Thursday Takeaway
There were 38,675 fans in attendance at Wrigley Field for the final game of a four-game series between the Reds and Cubs, and I’d imagine that two or three times that many people would’ve claimed to have been in the ballpark for this one had the Cubs actually completed the massive comeback.
Jon Lester exited the game during the second inning, but not before he had a disastrous inning that was reminiscent of how the Pirates roughed him up for 10 runs back on July 9. This time, the Reds “only” scored nine runs in one frame, with seven of those runs being credited to Lester (who exited after suffering what could potentially be a serious lat injury).
Even though the Reds started that inning with four consecutive singles, it seemed like Chicago would escape it with just a two-run deficit once they got two outs on the board. Instead, Lester walked Billy Hamilton, Jose Peraza hit an RBI single to double their lead, and Joey Votto completed his week of being a general troll to the Cubs and their fans by breaking the game open with a three-run dinger.
By the time the smoke cleared, the Reds were up by nine and the Cubs had more pitchers used (two) than runs scored (zero). That changed in a hurry when Ian Happ hit a dinger to put the Cubs on the board, but they still had a long road ahead of them if they wanted to make this a game.
The Cubs proceeded to turn on the afterburners once they got on the comeback trail, and they hit breakneck speed during the fourth and fifth innings. The Kris Bryant/Anthony Rizzo duo combined for a home run and a double to lead off the fourth, but that was only the beginning of Chicago’s power surge. It’s rare to see back-to-back-to-back home runs, but I’d say that it’s especially rare to see it happen from the 6-7-8 guys in a lineup. That’s what Alex Avila, Ian Happ, and Javier Baez achieved when they all hit home runs in order to turn this into a competitive game again.
Chicago still wasn’t done, though. Kyle Schwarber went deep to lead off the fifth, and then doubles from Rizzo and Avila gave the Cubs their eightth and ninth runs of the day. In the meantime, the Reds hadn’t scored, so that means that the Cubs erased a nine-run deficit in the second inning by the time the fifth inning was over.
If wacky games like these have a script, then normally this is the part where the weaker team just succumbs to their collapse and lets the stronger team roll on to victory. That wasn’t the case here. After both teams decided to use the sixth inning as a break from scoring, Phillip Ervin kept the chaos going by hitting a two-run homer to put Cincinnati back in front. That ended up being the game-winner, as the Reds were able to keep Chicago’s bats relatively silent for the rest of the afternoon and their nightmare scenario was averted.
The Reds have already had an extremely rough season and if we’re all being honest, they really didn’t need to add “blew a nine-run lead to the Cubs” onto their 2017 resume. Instead, they’ll have this win to look back on as a small positive from the season, while the Cubs continue to fight and scuffle for their spot at the top of the NL Central.
Ender Inciarte went into this season with just one multi-homer game in his career. He now has three, and the second one from this season alone came yesterday against the Rockies.
Inciarte not only had two home runs, but he also stole a couple of bases as well. He was all over the place like seagulls at one of the Bay Area stadiums on a bad day. His performance was the gem of what was a nice bounce-back effort from the Braves after they got dump-trucked by the Rockies the night before.
Colorado suffered a double-whammy when they got back to the clubhouse and saw that the Diamondbacks had picked up a victory over the Astros. The big story in this one was the performance of Patrick Corbin. In his last outing he held the Cubs scoreless over 6 2/3 innings, and he managed to top that feat by nearly throwing a shutout against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
To recap: That’s 15 1/3 scoreless innings against the Cubs and Astros in Corbin’s last two starts. Who says that this whole “baseball” thing is hard?
Plus, we’d be remiss if we left off the fact that Daniel Descalso hit a stand-up, inside-the-park home run in what would have qualified for the “Anti-Defensive Play of the Day” if such a thing existed.
Welcome to mid-August of the 2017 season, where a game between the third-place and last-place teams in the AL East is actually really relevant because of the absurd log jam that is the AL Wild Card race. The eighth inning ended up being the pivotal one in this contest between the Rays and Blue Jays, as Evan Longoria hit a RBI double to tie things at three going.
Tampa’s moment of equality came to a quick end by the time Justin Smoak arrived on the scene. Seven innings of solid work from Chris Archer went up in Smoak after Toronto’s All-Star first basemen sent the third pitch he saw from Tommy Hunter into the seats in right-center field for a two-run, go-ahead homer. Toronto held on to win and even though they’re 59-62, they’re still very much alive. Hooray for the Wild Card!
Gary Sanchez was born in October, but he’s playing like he wants to be known as Mr. August. Going into Thursday night’s game against the Mets, the Yankees slugger had been hitting .319/.404/.702 with a .383 ISO and five home runs during the muggy month of August, and he added one more dinger to that tally as his homer opened up the scoring for the Yankees.
Meanwhile, the Mets went into the bottom of the ninth in a six-run hole. They didn’t get out of that hole, but Curtis Granderson tried his best to drag the Mets out of that crater and into the light by hitting a grand slam to make things intriguing at the end.
Cleveland and Minnesota played a twin-bill, and it’s safe to say that the AL Central leaders are going to look back on the first game very fondly while trying to forget that the second game happened. Cleveland’s pitching staff definitely has reason to be happy with their performance in Game 1, as they struck out the side on three separate occasions. The game fittingly ended with Nick Goody striking out the side to lock down the victory.
As a unit, the staff combined for a whopping 19 strikeouts for the matinee, which tied the franchise record for a nine-inning game. The flame emoji in their Twitter avatar would’ve served as the perfect emblem for their performance in this one.
With 19 Ks in game one, our staff tied a franchise record for most strikeouts in a nine-inning game.
Our reaction: pic.twitter.com/LR63n4Wflo
Defensive Play of the Day
This may not have had a spectacular ending or something wonky happen, but this catch by Adam Engel is incredibly impressive if only when you think about the sheer amount of territory the guy had to cover just to make the play. He was basically in left field when he made the catch.
That 127 ft is the 2nd-longest "distance needed" on a 4 or 5-star catch this season (Mookie Betts, 129)
— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) August 18, 2017
What to Watch on Friday
If you’re planning on keeping a close eye on the crazy AL Wild Card race, then today’s going to be a good day for you. The Angels are only three games over .500 and the Orioles are three games under, but they’re both still in it so it’s worth keeping an eye on! The same can be said when it comes to the .500 Mariners and the three-under-.500 Rays! Then we have Cleveland taking on the Royals in what could end up being an important game in the AL Central. The Yankees and Red Sox are back at it and once again, I am telling you to watch them play each other.
If that’s not enough, then the NL has a little bit of drama as well. The Cardinals and Pirates will be playing the second of an interesting-but-not-quite-AL Wild Card-interesting four-game series, and the Rockies will be hosting the Brewers this weekend as well. Even the interleague game could have interesting implications, as the Diamondbacks will be visiting the Twins. The log jam in the AL Wild Card surely won’t last until the end of the season, but it’s fun to keep track of for the time being, isn’t it?
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now