Miguel Montero did not have a good ninth inning Wednesday evening. He couldn't stop two of Hector Rondon's pitches in the dirt (why Rondon was throwing sliders, up in the count, when he has a 98 mile per hour fastball is another story), and they led to the Brewers tying the game.
Miguel Montero had an outstanding 10th inning Wednesday evening. He cranked Michael Blazek's second pitch into the left-field seats for an opposite-field walkoff home run and the Cubs won their sixth in a row, 12th of 13 and 13th of 15, 3-2 over the Brewers. The win was also the Cubs' 11th walkoff victory of the season, most in the major leagues, and improved their record in one-run games to 26-17. (The team record for one-run wins in a season is 37, set in 1907, in case you wondered.)
You'd probably like to see that homer again. I know I would!
Unlike earlier games in this homestand, the Cubs gave their opposition the first dent on the scoreboard. Ryan Braun homered off Jason Hammel with two out in the first inning, but then Hammel settled down until the sixth. With two out and Adam Lind due up, Joe Maddon lifted Hammel for lefthander Clayton Richard. This isn't the first time Maddon has done that early in the game, and as you can imagine, Hammel wasn't happy:
#Cubs Maddon on pulling Hammel: "I am certain he's going to be upset. I expect him to be upset."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 13, 2015
Was Hammel upset? "Obviously." #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 13, 2015
Maddon does what's necessary to win. Always, always, always. Of course, Hammel the competitor wants to stay in the game -- and his pitch count was only 65! But winning takes precedence, and I like that Maddon does this. He's subsuming any individual need or want to the team (I'm reminded of the Star Trek line, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one."), and that's exactly the right thing to do.
Richard retired Lind and had a 1-2-3 seventh. Say, maybe this relief gig is perfect for Richard.
Meanwhile, Kris Bryant lofted an opposite-field home run to the right-field basket in the second inning, his 16th, tying the game. The wind died down later in the game, but it was still blowing in rather briskly at the time of Bryant's fly ball, and it barely made it. In the fifth, the Cubs took the lead when Montero walked, Hammel sacrificed him to second and Addison Russell singled up the middle.
It stayed there at 2-1 through eight, with the Cubs getting good relief work from Richard and Pedro Strop. But that's not what you want to talk about here, is it?
What you want to talk about is this:
That might be one of the most amazing catches I've ever seen. Not only did Anthony Rizzo maintain his balance on a surface -- the tarp cover -- that's slippery and not flat, but he stayed on top of the wall (which is in play) until he caught the ball. Then he actually had the presence of mind to throw the ball back toward the infield, after he fell into the seats. And though a play like that is not reviewable, this is a good thing:
#Cubs Maddon says umps realized they'd made wrong call after saying Braun was not out after Rizzo catch but then discussed, and fixed it— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 13, 2015
#Cubs Maddon: "When you go out to talk to umpires and they actually say, 'I should've done this instead,' that's a beautiful thing, man"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 13, 2015
That's what umpiring should be all about -- getting the calls right. Kudos to Rizzo, and also to the umpires for doing the right thing, which was allowing the catch and sending the runner on first to second (because Rizzo wound up in the seats).
That turned out to be a fairly important play, because the hitter was Braun, who along with Lind is the only real threat in Milwaukee's depleted lineup. With the score tied and a runner on base, it was far better to have two out and a runner on second, than have Braun still batting with one out and Jonathan Lucroy on first.
The ninth inning -- well, Rondon wasn't his sharpest. A little flare into right field by Braun led off the inning, and then Lind hit a ball behind second base that Russell tried a backflip toward Starlin Castro, who had taken over at second base. Castro couldn't handle the throw, but let me make it clear -- that wasn't Castro's fault, the throw was not accurate and an error was charged to Russell.
Rondon recovered by striking out Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett, but during Davis' at-bat he threw his first wild pitch of the inning, and the runners advanced to second and third. Then the second wild pitch got away from Montero while Jean Segura was hitting, and the tying run scored. Again, I'm not sure why Rondon went to sliders against Segura when he was hitting 98 on the ballpark pitch speed meter.
Tommy Hunter threw a scoreless 10th, but not until after Chris Denorfia made this outstanding catch (which for some reason is not embeddable, though the other plays from this game are).
And it all worked out moments later when Montero hit his walkoff homer, the second walkoff of his career and first as a Cub. The crowd was into every pitch from the ninth inning on and exploded when Montero's no-doubt-about-it blast landed about halfway up the left-field bleachers.
One day at a time with this team, but man, this is fun, every day a new story, every day a new hero. With the Pirates' loss to the Cardinals the Cubs moved to within 1½ games of Pittsburgh, and extended their second wild-card lead to 4½ games over the Giants after San Francisco lost to the Astros.
It's a gorgeous morning in Chicago, perfect sunny weather for an afternoon game at Wrigley Field. The Cubs, who have not only won six straight overall, but have six consecutive wins over the Brewers, go for yet another sweep with Jon Lester facing Brewers rookie Tyler Cravy.