There were some baserunning antics in this game, some good, some bad. Fortunately, both of them benefited the Cubs in their second straight win over the Mets (and sixth straight over them overall). It was in this game that Anthony Rizzo literally said "It's magic!" to the Cubs dugout.
The Cubs were 41-35 after this win, picking up a game on the Cardinals, who they now trailed by 9½ games. They remained two games behind the second-place Pirates.
The Cubs beat the Mets 2-0 in 11 innings Wednesday night, but that was almost the least interesting thing about the whole three-hour, 40-minute affair.
Just when you think you've seen everything possible on a baseball field, this play happens:
You've seen similar plays before, I'm sure, when a runner is caught in a rundown and two runners wind up on a base. In that case, the defense usually tags both men and the trailing runner is out, since the lead runner is entitled to the base.
But in this case, the lead runner, Ruben Tejada, stepped off the base and wandered toward left field. So when Miguel Montero tagged both him and Daniel Murphy, third-base umpire Chris Guccione called them both out for an inning-ending double play.
Here's the explanation of why Murphy was ruled safe:
Pool reporter on play at 3B. #mets #cubs pic.twitter.com/bn8Rf4Qg6D— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) July 2, 2015
Now that actually makes sense and it's good that the umpires conferred and got it right. In the end it was moot because the Mets didn't score any runs in the inning, and they didn't score in any of the other innings, and for a while it looked like the Cubs weren't going to score, either. As they did Tuesday night, they had their chances in regulation time and failed, including wasting a leadoff double by Anthony Rizzo in the ninth (and Rizzo executed an awesome steal of third by holding his leg back to avoid a tag), and a TOOTBLAN by Kris Bryant in the 10th. Check out what Rizzo was saying after his stolen base (click on the image to run it):
This one could have some legs for the season. #ItsMagic pic.twitter.com/6LZp6hkEU5— Randall J. Sanders (@RandallJSanders) July 2, 2015
Here's video of Rizzo's steal:
I'm kind of getting ahead of myself here, so let's go back to the beginning of the game. Jon Lester was outstanding in this one. He had a bit of a shaky second inning, loading the bases with one out, but got out of it and after that seemed to get stronger as the game went along. He has had other outings in which he gave up fewer hits or had more strikeouts, but I felt he was more in command in this game than in any of his 15 other starts. Let's hope this is a good sign for the second half of the season. He still doesn't have any hits, now 0-for-30 on the year and 0-for-66 for his career after Bartolo Colon struck him out twice.
For his part, Colon was just as good. He had Cubs hitters off balance all night, despite the fact that he's 42 years old and doesn't look anything like you'd imagine an elite professional athlete should look. Good for him.
Props yet again to the Cubs' bullpen, which threw four shutout innings and allowed just two hits and a walk. Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, Jason Motte, James Russell and Justin Grimm (first major-league save) were terrific, though Grimm decided to give us all a little scare when he issued a walk with a runner already on base and threw a wild pitch. But Grimm threw a nasty bendy slider to Kevin Plawecki and struck him out to end it.
The Cubs' winning rally in the top of the 11th was started by Dexter Fowler, who walked. After Rizzo bounced into a force play, Bryant singled. Chris Coghlan also singled, but not far enough into left field to score Rizzo. The bases should have been loaded with one out, but unfortunately, Bryant strayed too far off second base and that's when the TOOTBLAN happened. That made me think this one was going into looooooong extra innings, but Starlin Castro finally broke the scoreless tie by beating out a slow roller to third. That hit wasn't pretty, but it got the job done. Rizzo scored on the play, and Montero singled in Coghlan with an insurance run.
It's the first time since last September 15 and 16 against the Reds that the Cubs have thrown back-to-back shutouts, and it's the Cubs' 10th shutout of 2015, just one fewer than they had all of 2014. The blanking allowed the Cubs to move ahead of the Mets into fourth place in the National League in fewest runs allowed.
I guess you could say, "It's only the Mets," and the Mets have been even more offensively-challenged as the Cubs this year, scoring 22 fewer runs overall. Still, shutting out a major-league team two days in a row, once in extra innings, is a positive accomplishment for anyone, and it has to give confidence to the entire pitching staff.
Whatever it is, the Cubs have now won two in a row after looking pretty pathetic in St. Louis. Yes, it would be nice to get the offense rolling (3-for-12 with RISP Wednesday night). Fortunately, the pitchers -- both starters and relievers -- picked up the slack and have thrown 20 innings in this series and allowed 10 hits and two walks and struck out 22. That, definitely, is a good thing.
And thanks again to the White Sox, who beat the Cardinals for the second straight evening to allow the Cubs to creep to within 9½ games of St. Louis. Which leads to this question: how did they do that? This was just the second time all year that the Cardinals lost two straight home games. The other time was to the Tigers, and the White Sox aren't as good as the Tigers.
The win, coupled with a shocking Giants walkoff loss to the Marlins, put the Cubs back in the second wild-card spot by half a game. (Yes, I think it's time to start tracking this. We're nearly halfway through the 2015 season.)
Anyway, we should expect another low-scoring game for the series finale at Citi Field, where the Cubs have a chance to sweep. Jake Arrieta will face Jacob deGrom.