Having already dropped the opening set of Wednesday’s twin bill 9-1, the Cubs were looking about as worthwhile as that thing on Donald Trump’s head, except with even less of a chance and winning and/or being taken seriously. And that was before they allowed 5 runs to the Reds in the 2nd inning of the evening half of double-header. I’m pretty sure Ernie Banks did a posthumous barrel roll and regretted his famous catchphrase.
But then things happened, and not typical Cubbish things either. No, the sorts of things that happen to those good teams and that most everyone chalks up to luck. They hung 3 runs on Reds starter Tony Cingrani before their own pitcher, streamed starter Dallas Beeler, came around in the lineup. Not wanting to waste the opportunity to tack on more, and lacking the faith in Beeler to limit Cincy, Joe Maddon chose to use Kris Bryant as a pinch hitter.
And the kid came through, plating 2 runs with a sharp single to left and tying the game at 5 apiece. Oh, but the fun was just getting started. With the score still knotted in the 8th, Hector Rondon got into a bases-loaded jam with only one out. A collective gasp issued from Cubdom as Todd Frazier smacked a come-backer glanced off the pitcher’s leg…and right to Anthony Rizzo, who threw home to get the force. Jay Bruce then flied out to end the inning with no runs scored.
The Rondon-to-Rizzo deflection might have been improbable, but some might argue that what happened in the top of the 9th was even more so. And no, I don’t mean Bryan Price using close Aroldis Chapman in a non-save situation, though the fireballing lefty’s performance might explain why the Reds skipper uses him thusly. Chapman allowed a leadoff single to the ever-hotter Dexter Fowler, who subsequently stole second.
After a Starlin Castro K, Anthony Rizzo slapped a single to shallow left and Fowler slowed up approaching third, then rounded the bag awkwardly upon realizing that third base coach Gary Jones was in full-on send mode. I think Jones could learn a little something from Herm Edwards, though the concept behind the decision was sound. The Cubs had already gotten two hits off of a dominant closer and needed to force the Reds to make a play.
Then again, having a runner on third with only one out and Jorge Soler at the plate isn’t the world’s worst situation. In the end, Fowler pulled it together and broke for home, only to be gunned down by about 10 feet on a nice play by Marlon Byrd, whose last name Thom Brennaman says exactly like Jerry Seinfeld saying “Alec Berg” in his best John Houseman voice. Not that it would have really taken a good play to get him, but credit where it’s due and all that.
Rizzo advanced to second on the play and the Reds chose to intentionally walk Soler in order to face Taylor Teagarden, who had about as much chance to survive the at-bat as Mark McGrath did to survive the opening scene of Sharknado 3. On the first pitch, a 99 mph fastball, Rizzo took 3rd as Teagarden flailed helplessly. But then, wonder of wonders, T2 rose like the machines and dropped the bat right into the path of 101 mph heater, driving it into center and scoring Rizzo for the go-ahead run.
I’m still not sure it actually happened, but that’s baseball. It’s not always about a team exerting its superiority through dominant pitching performances and offensive explosions; sometimes it’s a lucky bounce or a hit that defies logic. That’s nothing new for a team that now starts 4 rookies and that doesn’t yet know what it doesn’t know when it comes to competing for a postseason berth down the stretch.
The Cubs aren’t always easy to watch, but if we wanted easy we could all just go be Phillies fans. I mean, it wasn’t necessarily fun to embrace the suck of the last few years, but at least you never felt compelled to let it consume you. If this game had taken place a year ago, most of you would’ve turned it off after the Reds hung that crooked number. Now, however, you’ve got to clench up and suffer through the kind of baseball that might well give you a peptic ulcer (yes, pedants, I know that they’re really caused by bacterial infections and not stress).
But maybe we can let the nauseatingly wild ride be our new losing. I know baseball fans are a superstitious bunch and to suggest in even a peripheral manner that they assume any outcome is to immediately negate said result, so maybe what I’m suggesting won’t pass muster. Then again, there’s something decidedly freeing about simply accepting the fate that will come, in assuming the best in the end and following that linear path through the muck and mire of the individual games.
I mean, this yo-yoing with each game/inning/at-bat just won’t do, people. You can flagellate yourselves all you want, but I’m getting a little tired of that. No, I think I’m going to kick back and relish in the understanding that this team is simply going to look like world-beaters one day and hammered crap the next. In other words, they flip from density to destiny and back, sometimes in the stretch of 5 minutes.
Baseball’s weird, man, and the water in that pool of crazy isn’t always warm. So I understand if you need to keep getting in and out to dry off now and again. As for me, though, I’m just gonna dive in, climb onto a nice inflatable, and chill for the rest of the season. Well, that’s the goal anyway.