The Cubs lost to the Diamondbacks 3-2 Sunday in part because of a baseball rule you'd likely never heard of before this game.
If you missed the discussion of how the D'backs second run of the game scored, I direct your attention to MLB Rule 7.04 (c):
Rule 7.04(c) Comment: If a fielder, after having made a legal catch, should fall into a stand or among spectators or into the dugout or any other out-of-play area while in possession of the ball after making a legal catch, or fall while in the dugout after making a legal catch, the ball is dead and each runner shall advance one base, without liability to be put out, from his last legally touched base at the time the fielder fell into, or in, such out-of-play area.
That's exactly what happened when Anthony Rizzo reached into a photographer's area next to the first-base dugout to catch a foul ball off the bat of Aaron Hill in the bottom of the sixth with one out, runners on first and third, and the game tied 1-1. Rizzo caught the ball, but fell (very gracefully, I might add) into the photo area, and once he did that, Rule 7.04 (c) came into play. A run scored and the runner at first was awarded second base. Rizzo actually had the presence of mind to throw the ball in the general direction of the plate before he left the photo area, but it wouldn't have mattered. The run would have been awarded anyway.
Len & JD got into a long discussion of this rule after this play happened, and here's Len's conclusion:
The out of play rule we just saw in AZ is a good rule. Stinks hurt the Cubs, but it is not a dumb rule.— Len Kasper (@LenKasper) July 20, 2014
All of people frothing at mouth over ball out of play call-stop. It is what it is. Rule has existed forever. Great catch, run scores. Period— Len Kasper (@LenKasper) July 20, 2014
And they're not changing/tweaking the rule. Like asking for 5 balls for a walk or 4 strikes for K. They're not changing it.— Len Kasper (@LenKasper) July 20, 2014
Len's right about the rule, of course, but I note in connection with this particular play: Given the fact that Rizzo might have fallen into the stands, would the Cubs have been better off if he'd have dropped the ball or let it drop? In that case it would simply have been a foul ball and Hill's at-bat would have continued. Now, we'll never know what might have happened if Hill had continued to hit. He might have hit a three-run homer. Or he might have hit into an inning-ending double play. It's a thought exercise, really, more than anything else, since we'll never know what might have happened if Rizzo doesn't catch that ball.
In case you're wondering why I didn't post a photo of Rizzo's catch with this recap, remember that he fell into the photographers' box and they scattered!
Rizzo had given the Cubs a 1-0 lead in the top of that inning with his 23rd home run, which ties him with Giancarlo Stanton for the league lead, and also ties his career high, set last year. It continues him on pace for 38 home runs this year, with an outside shot at 40. But he can't do it alone, Cubs hitters. Other than the homer they had just four other hits, and Rizzo had one of the four. Arismendy Alcantara doubled in another run after Chris Coghlan's second double of the game, but that's as close as they could get, and the Cubs fell to 9-17 in one-run games. Josh Collmenter is a decent pitcher, but he isn't this good. The Cubs should have been able to hit him.
Sweeney had helped keep the game close with a spectacular diving catch of a ball off the bat of Paul Goldschmidt with two runners on base after that unusual play-by-rule in the seventh. If not for that play, the D'backs would likely have ended that inning leading at least 5-1.
Jake Arrieta couldn't quite finish the seventh inning, but he posted his eighth straight quality start (and 10th overall in 14 outings). He struck out eight and one of the runs charged to him scored after he had left the game in favor of James Russell. His ERA edged up to 2.12, which would still be good enough for second in the National League (behind Adam Wainwright) if he had enough innings to qualify. At 85 innings he's still 12 short of qualifying (one inning per team game is needed). Before today, though, he was fourth in bWAR for National League pitchers this year at 3.3, behind Wainwright, Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw. That's good company. Arrieta certainly had his team in position to win, if they'd only been able to score some runs.
The good news is that the Cubs won't have to go back to the house of horrors that is Chase Field until next year. They got swept out of it this year, are 5-14 in Phoenix since 2011 and 23-41 all-time there (not including the two playoff losses in 2007). Further, the Cubs have now completed more than two-thirds of their road schedule (55 games, 20-35) and will have many more home games (39) than road games (26) the rest of the way.
That will begin Tuesday, when a three-game set against the Padres opens with Kyle Hendricks, perhaps recalled to stay, facing San Diego's Eric Stults.