For the first time, the result of a replay review might have cost the Cubs a game. Here's the play in question:
Watching the play live, it appeared pretty clear the runner was safe, but first-base umpire James Hoye called him out. I've watched the replay a number of times, and it was pretty clear on review that Gregory Polanco beat Starlin Castro's throw to first base. Castro, incidentally, made a really slick play to even glove the ball, so give him credit there.
Had the out call stood, it would have ended the top of the seventh inning. Instead, the inning was prolonged and Josh Harrison sent Justin Grimm's second pitch into the bleachers for a 5-2 Pirates lead. In the bottom of the inning, Eli Whiteside (!) doubled in a run for the Cubs which, if not for the replay review, would have tied the game. No further runners reached base for either team and so the Pirates wound up with a 5-3 win over the Cubs, evening up the weekend series.
Note that I'm certainly not complaining here. I've been a strong advocate for replay review for several years. Get the calls right, and they're doing that. No one knows what either team would have done without review; different hitters might have come to the plate against different hitters. Even though the Cubs lost the game, I'm glad for this system that's designed to make the results on the field reflect what the players actually do.
Incidentally, Polanco is fast. Really fast. Most runners wouldn't have even made that play close.
All of this happened after a tremendous thunderstorm blew through the Chicago area, starting about an hour before the scheduled game time. The Cubs cleared not only the bleachers and box seats, but asked everyone in the stands at the time to go below on the concourse due to expected high winds and lightning. I know that there were reported tornadoes in parts of the area. During the delay, someone jumped out of the bleachers onto the field. This is not a good idea, and as you can see by that Instagram video posted by C.J. Nitkowski (Len Kasper's Fox broadcast partner Saturday night), he was quickly apprehended.
The rain produced a delay of two hours before the first pitch was thrown; somewhat surprisingly, few left the ballpark and, by my estimate, almost all of the 36,563 announced crowd actually was in the park, at least for the first few innings. Once the rain left the area the wind completely died and it turned into a pleasant evening, even though on the day of the summer solstice, when we have the maximum length of daylight, all we saw were clouds.
Travis Wood struggled again; even though he'd given up just one run through four innings (another home run from Jordy Mercer) he was running long counts, and that caught up with him in the fifth, when a walk and two singles after two were out produced a pair of Pirates runs. The Cubs pen did a decent job -- until the review prolonged the seventh inning.
The Cubs' first two runs were produced by another home run from Anthony Rizzo, his 15th, with Chris Coghlan on base. Other than that and the seventh-inning rally that scored the third and final run, though, the Cubs had just one other inning when anyone reached base. That was in the fifth, when Darwin Barney's leadoff double was wasted.
It wasn't a bad game played by the North Siders. They just didn't win. And that has to be counted as an improvement, I'd say. Sometimes the other team is going to take advantage of a break, and the Pirates did. One of the reasons the Pirates were so good last year was their lockdown bullpen, and they showed that Saturday night. Jared Hughes, Tony Watson and Mark Melancon (11th save) retired all seven hitters they faced, with Melancon striking out the side in the ninth.
BCBer cooliogirl47 stopped by to say hello and sat across the aisle... then after a couple of innings, took off and never returned. I'm sure she'll stop by here or in a game thread and let you all know where she went!
The Cubs and Pirates will play the rubber game of the series Sunday afternoon, with Jason Hammel (undoubtedly, with scouts watching) facing Brandon Cumpton.