The Wednesday Takeaway
When the Chicago Cubs two years ago won their first World Series in over a century, they began their historic playoff run began by taking three of four games from the San Francisco Giants in the Divisional Series. Wednesday night, the Cubs were back in the Bay to take on Johnny Cueto, just like they did in Game 1 of 2016.
Chase d’Arnaud entered play Wednesday with two MLB home runs in 504 career plate appearances. Leading off the bottom of the first, d’Arnaud poked a fly ball just inside of the left-field foul pole to make it three big flies in his career and open up a 1-0 lead. Two outs and two baserunners later, Gorkys Hernandez went opposite field, lining a double off the right-field fence to plate two runners. Next up, rookie Steven Duggar brought Hernandez around with a single for his first RBI with the big club. Through one inning, the Giants led 4-0 and held an estimated 85.4 percent chance of victory.
But the Cubs got one back in the top of the third when Jason Heyward ripped a dong to deep right field off Cueto, and two more in the fifth when Kris Bryant, playing his first game back from the disabled list, rode one out to straightaway center. Meanwhile, left-hander Mike Montgomery settled down and didn’t allow another run after the first. In the sixth, both teams turned it over to their bullpens.
Finally, in the top of the seventh, the Cubs erased the deficit completely. Javy Baez came up against Tony Watson and hit one deep to center. Duggar very nearly managed to pull it back into the park, but the ball cleared his glove and evened the score at four:
And that remained the score through nine, and through 10, and 11. In the 12th, the Cubs brought in James Norwood to make his big-league debut, but still neither team could score.
In the bottom of the 13th, Norwood got two quick outs before walking Brandon Belt. That brought up Andrew McCutchen, who kept the inning alive with a single. Norwood took Buster Posey to 2-2, just one strike from salvation. But Posey connected on the pitch and banged it off of the right field fence, a perfect bookend to Hernandez’s first-inning double, and a walk-off winner:
Giants’ reliever Dereck Rodriguez got the win, working the 11th through 13th, and keeping the Cubs off the board. He would’ve gone even longer, too, had the need arisen: Rodriguez was allowed to hit for himself to lead off the bottom of the 13th He grounded out, but obviously things worked out.
When the score runs to 18-1, baseball starts to resemble the Red Light District in a sense. Anything can happen, and you’re very liable to see something abhorrent, unholy, and uniquely cool. Like German Marquez, a pitcher, launching his first career home run off of Daniel Descalso, a utility man and definitely not a pitcher. That’s all I have to say about this. The occurrence is too beautiful to mar with further words:
On the other end of the Position Player Pitching Performance (P)spectrum, there’s Reds infielder Alex Blandino. Faced with the daunting task of surviving an inning after a parade of actual pitchers had coughed up 19 runs, Blandino asserted himself incredibly well:
Sorry Cincinnati pitching staff, he’s your ace now. That’s just how it works. Time to stretch him out as a starter and crank the crazy up to eleven now. Don’t blame me, I don’t make the rules.
Jacob deGrom woofed on a bunt attempt in the bottom of the third, setting into motion a scorekeeper’s nightmare of a double play:
In case you’re wondering, you write than one as a routine 5-3-4-6-4. And while deGrom basically ruined everything in this moment, he made up for it with eight shutout innings, five hits, a walk, and eight strikeouts. Although deGrom didn’t get the win last night for his effort, Apu’s favorite baseball squadron still pulled it off in the 10th inning thanks to a walk-off blast from Brandon Nimmo:
Defensive Play of the Night
Shortly before his game, Seattle shortstop Jean Segura learned he would be heading to the All-Star Game through the Final Vote. After that, Segura went out and flashed the leather that makes him a star:
Was it at the edge of his range? Check. Did he have to get dirty? Check. Was the throw a 10/10 on the difficulty factor? Check. Did he nail it, across the board, right when he needed to? Check. Hats off to Segura for celebrating his All-Star nod in style.
What to Watch on Thursday
The Yankees are in Cleveland to face the Indians in the first game of their series, and the pitching matchup is a heavyweight showdown. Luis Severino will toe the rubber for the Yankees, with Corey Kluber opposite him. Wins might have fallen out of favor in terms of judging the effectiveness of a pitcher, but that 20-win plateau still carries a fair bit of magic—and both of these guys have a legitimate shot at it this season. It should be one of the best pitching matchups of the season.
Speaking of 20-game winners, a pair of them—JA Happ and David Price—will face off in Boston. Unless Happ gets traded before making his start, of course.
Max Scherzer is facing the JV outfit currently playing for the Mets while the regular players heal. From a competitiveness standpoint, it promises to be a dreadful baseball game. From a “there’s a chance I might see something historically significant” standpoint, it’s some of the best odds as you’ll see in your lifetime. Steven Matz is his New York counterpoint.