Of the Cubs’ 51 wins this season, 28 have come after trailing at some point in the game. There are obviously some early 1-0 deficits in there that may seem insignificant, but consider that scoring a run in the 1st inning as the visiting team gives you a 56 percent chance to win. Doing so as the home team increases those odds to 70 percent. As you can see, scoring first is the best way to ensure a W.
It’s even better to be up either late or big, situations the Cubs have had to overcome more than once each already. Heck, they faced both this weekend. When Ben Zobrist grounded out to second base to give the Cubs two outs in the 7th on Sunday, they had only a 28.3 chance to come back from a 3-4 deficit.
Three batters and three singles later, they were up 5-4 and had a 77.9 percent chance to win. They didn’t cruise to victory by any stretch, loading the bases with one out in the 9th and coming up empty on their first attempt to walk off. But when David Bote took four balls from Jackson Stephens with the bases again loaded in the 10th, the Cubs’ odds finally shot to 100 percent.
Of course, their odds throughout Sunday’s game were far better than they’d been the day before. When Victor Caratini grounded out to lead of the 6th, the Cubs were down 2-7 and had only a 4.5 percent chance to win. When Caratini came to bat in the 8th, those odds had doubled, though 9 percent isn’t really something to hang your hat on.
By the time the inning ended, the Cubs had closed the gap to one run and had shifted their odds all the way to 55.4 percent. They have reestablished a sense of never being out of any game, of being able to control their own destiny. Sometimes, though, that takes a little help.
Votto’s weird error
Bote’s walk-off walk wouldn’t have been possible were it not for one of the most bizarre errors you’ll ever see. With one out in the 10th and men on first and second, Addison Russell grounded to first baseman Joey Votto, who only needed to jog to the bag to record the second out. Plays do not get more routine, especially for a sure-handed fielder with a Gold Glove in his trophy case.
But as Votto reached the base and went to step on it to record the force, the ball inexplicably popped from his glove. Originally ruled an out in real-time, Joe Maddon asked for a review and the call was easily overturned. Thus the Cubs had the bases loaded for Bote, who fouled off two pitches while watching two sail high and two more wide.
No Angels in the Outfield moment, this was a case of Votto hastily shifting the ball to his throwing hand to be ready for a play had Willson Contreras tried to break for home or wandered too far from third. Even so, you can’t help but think that there’s some sort of karmic force involved or that the script has already been written to favor the Cubs.
Isn’t it always that way with good teams, though? They make their own luck by pushing the envelope and then making the most of the opportunities they create. That was the case Sunday and it’s really been that way since they got swept in Cincy a couple weeks ago.
Javy Baez and Willson Contreras were named All-Star starters and Jon Lester made the team’s pitching staff, all of which was more or less expected. Rather than debate the merits of the players involved or look at potential snubs, I really just want to discuss briefly how appropriate it is that the two position players made it.
I mean, it’s well and good for Lester too, but he’s not exactly the most fun guy in the world. Unless he’s giving drunk clubhouse interviews following big playoff victories, that is.
Given the ASG’s very nature as a showcase of the game’s best talent, it’s only fitting that two of the most passionate and exuberant players around have the opportunity to be out on that stage. As much as I’d love to see every Cubs player get a little extra rest, there’s no question both Javy and WillCo are deserving of this and will no doubt squeeze every last drop of enjoyment from it.
Bryant in Tennessee
While we’ve got to wait another week or so for the must-see TV of the Midsummer Classic, folks in Sevierville/Kodak Tennessee are in for a treat Monday night. Kris Bryant will be suiting up for the Smokies for the first time since he breezed through for 68 games at the start of the 2014 season.
He’s back for what could be a one-night-only engagement to test his shoulder against live competition as the Smokies battle the Montgomery Biscuits in Southern League action. A quick look at the Smokies’ website indicates that ticket availability is still high, so maybe consider making the trek if you’re anywhere near.
It’s a great ballpark, but not the easiest place to get to for most Cubs fans on a Monday night. First pitch is set for 6pm CT, about three hours before the Cubs face the Giants out in San Francisco. If all goes well for Bryant, he could hop a charter Monday night and rejoin the team in the Bay Area for the remainder of the series.
Keep in mind that this isn’t as much about his results as it is his timing and how he feels when swinging against live pitching. As long as those latter two feel right, he’ll be activated. That probably means Bote going back to AAA, even though he’s looked really good in his time with the Cubs so far.
Trade rumor advice
As we forced deep into the heart of trade rumor country, I wanted to offer a couple quick reminders. First, the Cubs cannot simply trade off underperforming pitchers for better ones. Also, simply offering up five or six players is not the key to landing a coveted trade target. That’s all.