I'll say this about the 2015 season 12 games in, likely without fear of contradiction: We've already had more wacky plays and entertainment and strange happenings so far this year than I think we had through the entire 2014 season.
Before I get to everything that happened Monday evening, if you are looking to talk about the callup of Addison Russell, here's where we're doing that.
The Cubs beat the Pirates 5-2 Monday night, but not until after two delays for different reasons, a play that got challenged by both managers and the biggest day Kris Bryant's had so far in his four-game major-league career.
The start of the game was delayed 28 minutes past its 7:05 p.m. ET scheduled starting time due to a threat of rain and some little spits of drizzle that landed on Pittsburgh. According to Len Kasper on the TV broadcast, it never did rain hard enough that they couldn't have played.
When Jake Arrieta finally did take the mound in the bottom of the first, he allowed three straight hits and a run on a RBI double by Neil Walker. Starlin Castro led off the bottom of the second and fouled a pitch back. A female fan was walking by, close to the protective net, apparently headed back to her seat, and the ball hit her in the back of the head.
CSN didn't run any replays and after having seen one, I can see why. This Vine shows what happened. I'm not going to embed that here because, frankly, it's pretty frightening. Thus, the link, which you can choose to watch or not. I will give credit to a PNC staff person who was standing right there and wound up holding up the woman so she didn't fall all the way to the ground. Also credit to the PNC medical staff who got a stretcher down to the first row and gave as much aid as they could. As of the time I wrote this recap, she seemed in good spirits as she left the park:
"She was conscious and alert at the time of transport, graciously thanking her caregivers while giving a 'thumbs up' gesture to nearby fans," the team said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with her."
So that's good news, and I certainly hope she makes a full recovery.
More good news is how Arrieta pitched after the delay. Whatever he and Chris Bosio talked about during that time, Arrieta came out and at one point retired 15 straight Pirates before Andrew McCutchen hit a two-out double in the sixth. Arrieta, who's been rock-solid again this season, allowed just four hits and the one run, and struck out seven with no walks. That drops his WHIP to 0.919 over 20⅔ innings so far this year.
The Cubs had plenty of chances early but kept hitting into double plays, one of them the first of Bryant's major-league career. (Yes, we are keeping track of all the "firsts" for Bryant. Soon, his first big-league homer, we trust.)
The Cubs finally broke through in the fifth when Bryant singled in Jorge Soler. Anthony Rizzo tried to score on the play and at first was ruled safe. The call was challenged by Clint Hurdle and overturned. Personally, I didn't think there was enough video evidence to overturn, but maybe the review folks saw angles we didn't. After that, Joe Maddon came out and made a challenge of the catcher-blocking-the-plate rule, saying Francisco Cervelli had done so without the ball. Denied, and the game went on tied 1-1.
The game continued tied into the seventh, when the Cubs put it away with a three-run rally. After Soler doubled and Rizzo walked, Bryant hit a double to deep center field, off the base of the wall. Bryant wound up with what Len Kasper called a "Little League home run" when he took third base when the throw in got past Cervelli. The Pirates then tried to get Bryant in a rundown. Josh Harrison's throw would have had Bryant out at the plate, except Cervelli dropped the ball. That was the first run of Bryant's major-league career, since we're keeping track. Here's video of this wacky play. (Link, again, since it's too soon for embeds.)
The best thing about those two rallies? All four runs scored after two were out and nobody on base. That's something Cub teams haven't done much of in the past. The Cubs added another two-out run in the eighth on a Jonathan Herrera RBI single. Herrera stole a base later in the inning, but was stranded. Rizzo also stole a base Monday night, his third, and the Cubs now stand alone atop the National League stolen-base leaderboard with 15 in 12 games. As I noted in Monday's game preview, they're spreading this around. Eight different Cubs have stolen bases so far this year, including Rizzo -- hardly known as a base-stealing threat -- with three, half as many as his career high of six, set in 2013.
Rizzo also reached on another hit-by-pitch Monday night, the fifth time he's been hit. That matches Reed Johnson's team mark for most HBP in the month of April -- and there are still nine games left in April. The team record for a season is 17. That was set by Frank Chance 110 years ago in 1905, and tied by Marlon Byrd in 2010. Rizzo came close last year with 15. I'm thinking that team mark will be shattered by Rizzo this year. The major-league record for HBP in a season remains 50. It was set by Ron Hunt of the Expos in 1971. No other player has had more than 35 in a season -- that was Don Baylor for the Red Sox in 1986.
Rizzo seems to almost enjoy getting hit. He's added something to his OBP arsenal with this. As long as he isn't seriously injured, why not?
But the day belonged to Bryant, with three hits and three RBI, and Soler, who went 4-for-5.
The Pirates scored a consolation run in the ninth inning on a two-out homer by Starling Marte off Zac Rosscup. By then things were well in hand.
As I said, the entertainment value of these games has been quite high, and not only that, this team is finding ways to win. Good teams do that. It's looking like the 2015 Cubs are a good team. Travis Wood takes the ball for this good team Tuesday night in the second game of the series against an old Cubs nemesis, Francisco Liriano.