The Rundown: Cubs Walk Off the Right Way, Bryant’s Blessing and Curse
Game 1: There were two men on in the bottom of the 9th when the manager came out to argue a call by the home plate umpire. Hot as hell, the skipper gave the ump what for and was tossed from the game. The batter at the plate in that moment eventually recorded an out, but the home team walked off in the following at-bat.
Game 2: There were two men on in the bottom of the 9th when the manager came out to argue a call by the home plate umpire. Hot as hell, the skipper gave the ump what for and was tossed from the game. The batter at the plate in that moment eventually recorded an out, but the home team walked off in the following at-bat.
Both of those games involved NL Central teams, but only one resulted in a win for a team in said division. Existing as he does in a perpetual state of irritation, Mike Matheny had been driven to the edge by home plate umpire Chris Segal’s calls throughout the game. The final straw came when Segal, not Red Sox batter Eduardo Nuñez, called time after he felt rookie reliever John Brebbia was holding the ball a little too long.
Incensed, Matheny bolted from the dugout, tore into Segal, and was run from the game, after which he made repeated contact with the umpires. Once some semblance of order had been restored, Nuñez popped out to first to put the Cardinals — leading 4-3 at the time — within one out of the win. But then Mookie Betts hit a two-strike double to left to push two runs across and walk off with the win.
A few miles to the west, the Cubs had men on first and second with no one out in the bottom of the 9th when Ben Zobrist squared to bunt against Wandy Peralta. He fouled off the first offering and squared again, this time at a four-seam fastball that got loose and hit him in the leg. Bases loaded. Except…wait…home plate umpire Chris Conroy ruled that Zobrist had offered at the pitch?
Incensed, Maddon bolted from the dugout, tore into Conroy, and was run from the game, after which he made repeated choice comments about the umpire’s call. He was no less salty even in light of the way the game played out, which was decidedly more favorable for the Cubs than it was the Redbirds.
“There’s no way any hitter under those circumstances with the ball coming at his thigh is gonna bunt through it *pantomimes bunting* and then get hit in the thigh,” Maddon explained in his postgame presser. “That’s asinine.”
Whether it’s irony or poetic justice, it was another mistake pitch that ended up giving the Cubs the win. After making Albert Almora Jr. look like Javy Baez by getting him to swing at sliders in the dirt, Blake Wood spiked a first-pitch slider to Kris Bryant and Baez scooted home for the win.
I don’t think you could describe that win as satisfying, what with the Cubs jumping out to a 6-1 lead only to see Hector Rondon and Carl Edwards Jr. throw it out the window with a trio of home runs. And seeing it end as it did, without actually driving the run home and in the wake of a terrible call, rang a little hollow. Still fun, mind you, just a little weird. But a win’s a win, even if it comes under precarious circumstances.
Back to the call for a moment, which seemed an odd one at best and an awful one at worst. I get what Maddon’s saying, but arguing intent is really a fool’s errand. After all, a batter who ducks out of the way of a pitch at his head only to have the ball ricochet off his bat is still charged with a strike. What I don’t understand is how the home plate umpire, who’s in no position to really see Zobrist’s bat well, can rule that he swung.
Did the bat move? Absolutely. Was it in an effort to offer at the pitch? Hell to the no. Already squared, Zobrist jumped back and the bat appeared to move down as a result. If that’s a swing then I’m able to get certified by Twitter or have the Cubs credential me for a game.
Bryant says success ‘blessing and curse’
“It’s a blessing and a curse to have such a good season, as a team and so many individual good seasons, that it could ultimately hurt you for a little bit of a time period just because you want to do it again, and you expect it,” Kris Bryant told Gordon Wittenmyer when the Cubs were in San Francisco. “It’s important to realize that it’s tough to do.”
Nowhere is there a better example of that than Bryant, whose stats are uncannily similar to those he put up in last year’s MVP campaign. The most astute metrics munchers among you will no doubt point to the home run and RBI numbers and, yes, those are decidedly different. I’m speaking, though, about overall lines that bear a strong familial resemblance.
Not that he’s in the MVP conversation again, but there’s this perception that he isn’t having nearly as good a year. That comes from the expectation Bryant mentioned, which largely determines said view of his and the Cubs’ performance. It’s tougher all the way around when you’re trying to get back to the top of the mountain, particularly when most of the goodwill appears to have bled out from all those around you.
Good thing the Reds Cross is there to offer a little support in that endeavor.
More news and notes
- Miguel Montero has been activated from the 10-day DL, which means he could be getting a start when the Jays come to Chicago this weekend.
- Jered Weaver announced his retirement; he actually pitched the news when he hit the DL back on May 20, but it took a couple months to reach us.
- The Marlins say they’re willing to engage in talks with teams on a Giancarlo Stanton trade, though the return would have to be massive for a 27-year-old masher who still has a decade of control. There has reportedly been no dialogue with the new Derek Jeter-led ownership group on the topic.
- Only two days left to bid on our John Baker Day prizes…
- Joe Maddon Experience: 4 of Joe’s tickets in the Cubs family section (lower level behind home plate), 4 field passes, and Joe will come over to greet you (time permitting, contingent upon other obligations). Next bid is $900.
- Joe Maddon autographed Cubs hat: Next bid is $80.
- Joe Maddon autographed World Series ball: Next bid is $170.
- Reminder that Cubs Players Weekend gear is all available now at Fanatics.