This GIF wasn't available at the time I wrote the original recap to this game.
But watching Gregory Polanco stumble over some invisible land mine in right field at Wrigley never, ever gets old:
Right? You could watch that all day.
The Cubs won their fifth in a row with this one, after blowing leads of 7-1 and 10-5. That was good! Their record improved to 20-15, and they were in second place, four games behind the first-place Cardinals.
And as for Matt Szczur, who you see above being pummeled in congratulations after hitting the ball that eluded Polanco -- his reward was a trip back to Iowa the next day.
With the game on the line, Miguel Montero singled Starlin Castro to third base with one out. Jorge Soler was intentionally walked to load the bases and bring up Matt Szczur. Szczur lofted a fly ball to short right field. Gregory Polanco caught it and third-base coach Gary Jones sent Castro... into an easy out at the plate.
With the game on the line, Miguel Montero singled Starlin Castro to third base with one out. Jorge Soler was intentionally walked to load the bases and bring up Matt Szczur. Szczur lofted a fly ball to short right field.
If you think there's something wrong with your computer or mobile device or with BCB, I assure you there isn't. I deliberately wrote the same paragraph twice, because that precise scenario happened twice in extra innings in a wild game at Wrigley Field Friday afternoon.
The second time, Polanco fell down when trying to catch Szczur's fly ball and it fell behind him for a game-winning single, scoring Castro, and the Cubs had perhaps their wackiest win in several years, 11-10 over the Pirates in 12 innings.
This game had, as the headline indicates, just about everything you could think of. Five home runs, 30 hits, 17 walks, three hit batsmen, some wild pitches, an error that helped the Cubs to a run... I'm probably leaving something out, but I'll see if I can cover everything.
The game started quietly, but neither Kyle Hendricks nor Jeff Locke had good command. Locke issued three walks in the first two innings, but the Cubs couldn't score. They broke through for a pair of singles followed by a three-run homer by Kris Bryant to open the scoring in the third. In the fourth, another run scored on a double by Addison Russell, a groundout and a Dexter Fowler sacrifice fly before Anthony Rizzo launched a majestic blast that hit the wood forms in the back row of the new right-field bleachers, a ball that would have landed on Sheffield a year ago. The Pirates had scored a run in the top of the fourth but the Cubs scored two more in the fifth to take a six-run lead, 7-1.
Hendricks hadn't been all that sharp either but did manage to get through five innings with just one run allowed. He'd thrown 84 pitches through five -- just about the number after which Joe Maddon had lifted him last Sunday in Milwaukee. This time, Maddon let him stay in and the same thing happened that happened against the Brewers. Hendricks started getting hit hard. He did manage to get a pair of outs sandwiched around an infield single, so Maddon likely thought he could finish the inning. It didn't happen. The final two runs off Hendricks scored on a single allowed by reliever Justin Grimm, but maybe Hendricks does have some problems when he gets close to 90 pitches. This is something that will have to be watched.
The Cubs extended the lead with a run in the sixth and two in the seventh to make it 10-5. But the Pirates erased most of that with a four-run eighth off Jason Motte and Pedro Strop, with two homers included, one by Josh Harrison, the other a three-run shot from the suddenly-hot Andrew McCutchen.
But at 10-9 with Hector Rondon coming in for a save opportunity, things looked pretty good. They looked better after Rondon struck out Jung-Ho Kang and Pedro Alvarez and was one strike from getting Harrison.
Welp. Harrison doubled and Francisco Cervelli singled him in to tie it. It was Rondon's second blown save in 10 opportunities. The Pirates are a good-hitting team and give them credit for coming back twice, once from six runs down and once from five runs down.
James Russell shut the door for two innings of relief. He issued a couple of walks in the 10th but a double-play ball helped him get out of that self-created mess. He gave up a two-out double to Harrison in the 11th but Cervelli flied to right to finish that inning.
The benches were nearly empty; Maddon turned to Travis Wood to bat for Russell in the 11th, but he grounded out. David Ross, the only Cubs position player remaining, has been nursing a minor abdominal injury suffered a couple of nights ago.
That left it up to Edwin Jackson. Uh-oh, everyone's thinking. But Jackson had a decent inning of work. He got two flyouts sandwiched around a walk to Polanco, who had stolen second. This gave the Cubs the opportunity to intentionally walk McCutchen. The Pirates sent up starting pitcher Vance Worley to bat for reliever Mark Melancon -- the Bucs had run out of position players. Worley is a lifetime .132 hitter who was 0-for-2 career as a pinch-hitter before Friday. He got a bat on the ball and hit a fly ball that was curving away from Soler in right. Jorge caught it, not an easy play as the sun was still hitting that corner.
That brought us to the 12th, which set up exactly the same way as the 10th. I don't think I've ever seen that before, two extra innings in which the same hitters came to the plate and the same run-scoring situation presented itself. I'm still not sure what Gary Jones was thinking sending Castro in the 10th. The catch was made only about 100 feet behind the infield and Castro was out by 30 feet. Had Polanco caught the ball in the 12th, I was hoping Jones would hold Castro and leave it up to... well, Ross, I guess, who was on deck.
I'd say something like "good teams find ways to win games like this" except this one was far from pretty with two big blown leads and the win coming on a gift. The Cubs will, of course, take it. Five straight home wins is very, very nice, especially coming on a warm afternoon when the sun made it feel like summer. We might not be as lucky Saturday and Sunday as there's a chance of storms both days.
The last time the Cubs won more than five games in a row was in 2011, when they won seven straight from July 31 through August 6. They'll go for their sixth straight Saturday afternoon, with both teams' aces on the mound, Jon Lester and Gerrit Cole. I don't think we'll see anything quite like Friday afternoon's game... maybe ever.