In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened! -- Vin Scully
To be sure, Miguel Montero's 13th-inning, bases-loaded, game-winning single that gave the Cubs a crazy 8-7 win over the Pirates about 10 minutes after midnight early Tuesday morning did not have the impact that the Kirk Gibson home run that inspired Scully's famous comment did.
But it was certainly improbable. And the way the Cubs came back to win this game might be termed "impossible," but the Cubs have been doing near-impossible things all season, so why should this one be any different?
Consider just some of the weird and wild things that happened in this game, more or less in chronological order:
- Jake Arrieta battled through a 14-pitch at-bat, fouling off eight consecutive pitches before striking out.
- Arrieta later hit a long foul ball that came within maybe 15 feet of being a game-tying home run that would have been one of the longest home runs at Wrigley this year.
- The Cubs came back from three runs down going into the bottom of the eighth.
- The Cubs had not one, but two potential game-winning runs thrown out at the plate in extra innings.
- And, after 5⅔ excellent scoreless innings of relief by the Cubs' bullpen (granted, the two-run double off Travis Wood scored runs that were not charged to him), the guy that gave up the lead in the 13th wound up with his first big-league win.
There's more, lots more, so let's start at the beginning, when a light rain was falling on Wrigley.
The Cubs struck first. Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the first inning with a single and took third when Pirates starter Steven Brault threw a potential double-play ball into center field. A ground ball to third by Anthony Rizzo scored Fowler and it was 1-0 Cubs. They made it 3-0 in the second on a pair of walks, an RBI double by Jorge Soler and an infield out by Jason Heyward, who had a productive evening (2-for-6) and continues to look better at the plate.
Arrieta didn't give up a hit through three innings and faced the minimum because Willson Contreras made this fine throw [VIDEO] to cut down Josh Bell, who had walked, trying to steal second in the first. With one out in the fourth, though, Bell hit a ball that went off the ribbon board in the left-field corner for a homer that cut the Cubs' lead to two.
Then came Jake's epic at-bat, which happened with one out in the bottom of the fourth and Javier Baez on first with a single:
Don't think I can recall any pitcher ever having an at-bat quite like it, even if it did end on a strikeout, and when did you last see a home crowd give one of their players a standing ovation for a K?
In the fifth, Starling Marte singled, stole second and went to third on a bad throw by Contreras. One out later, this happened:
Heads-up play by Arrieta for both starting and ending that rundown play, the latter after Contreras dropped the ball after appearing to tag Marte out.
Jake got himself in trouble in the sixth with a single and walk and then Gregory Polanco put the Pirates ahead 4-3 with a home run that landed about five rows below me in the left-field corner. Arrieta came to bat in the bottom of the sixth with one out and no one on base -- he'd thrown just 79 pitches at that point -- and nearly tied the game with that long foul fly. That was an impressive hit, even though it will never show in any record book:
109.3 MPH and projected at 406ft... https://t.co/5dQFyjJ2Fa— Daren Willman (@darenw) August 30, 2016
After Jake's K (and he wound up 1-for-3, with a second-inning single), the Pirates flashed some glove:
Credit where credit is due, even if he did showboat the post-catch flip.
Jake got in further trouble in the seventh, giving up a single and walk. After he got a comebacker to force David Freese at third, Wood entered and struck out pinch-hitter Matt Joyce. But then Josh Harrison, who had made that spectacular catch in the previous inning, doubled in two runs to make it 6-3. It's around that time that I started thinking, "Well, it's only one loss, the Cubs are still way up in the division race..."
Silly me, giving up on this game. Contreras followed Heyward's leadoff double in the eighth with his ninth home run of the year [VIDEO] to make it 6-5 and with one out in the ninth, Soler tied it with this opposite-field blast [VIDEO]. That was an impressive piece of hitting on a 1-2 sinker that didn't sink quite enough for Pirates closer Tony Watson.
On we went to extras. And if you hadn't seen enough wild plays, clutch hitting and other weirdness, the 10th and 12th innings for the Cubs provided even more. Singles by Baez and Fowler put runners on first and third with one out in the 10th. Bryant was intentionally walked, and then this happened:
That play was awfully, awfully close. One of the review angles appeared to show that Baez might have gotten his hand on the plate before Francisco Cervelli tagged him. But that wasn't enough to overturn the ruling on the field -- an overturn would have ended the game with a Cubs win -- so it was ruled "call stands" and on we went.
The Pirates had runners on first and third in the 11th thanks to a single and an error by Baez when Locke came to the plate and hit a ground ball that hit Harrison running to second [VIDEO]. That produced the third out, though credited as a single to Locke, and a putout given to Baez.
Baez then hit his first career triple with one out in the 12th. That gave him his second four-hit game of 2016 (and of his career). Addison Russell -- who was supposed to have a day off Monday but wound up double-switched into the game in the 10th -- hit a fly ball to medium-deep left field. Marte's throw... well, you watch:
That one wasn't as close as the other one, but it was reviewed anyway. This one was a crew-chief review, likely to make sure Baez had a lane to the plate, and was ruled "call confirmed."
And so they played on, with the clock approaching midnight and "weird baseball."
Rob Zastryzny, nearly the last man in the Cubs bullpen (Carl Edwards Jr. was the only one remaining), gave up a couple of bouncy singles and a walk to lead off the 13th. Zaz didn't pitch badly, he got the ground balls he was looking for, they just got through. He struck out Sean Rodriguez (who got booed, loudly, every time he came to the plate) with the bases loaded, then got Harrison to hit a line drive to Ben Zobrist in left, scoring a run. Another K, this one of Locke, ended the inning.
No one else must have been available for the Pirates, because Locke continued in the 13th. Locke had been removed from the Pirates' rotation a few weeks ago and began the inning having thrown 61 pitches, his most in nearly a month. So you figured the Cubs might be able to get to him eventually, and they did. Three straight singles, by Fowler, Bryant and Rizzo, tied the game. Zobrist was then intentionally walked to load the bases, and that brought up Montero, the last position player left on Joe Maddon's bench.
Miggy's had a tough year, as you know, and entered the game having not played much over the last month, and in that time was 5-for-33. But:
#Cubs Montero was ready for 13th. "I guess they didn't check my stats with the bases loaded." FYI, he was batting .340 with bases full— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 30, 2016
FWIW, that's Montero's career BA with the bases loaded. This year, prior to Monday night, he'd been 1-for-6 with the bags full.
Well, you know what happened. Here, watch the celebration again!
About 10,000 or so of the 38,951 announced stuck around till 12:10 a.m. to see the end of this wacky, wild, crazy game, a game the Cubs really had no business winning, not down three runs with six outs to go -- and yet, they found a way to win. I'm really, really happy for Miggy, who deserves some good things in a very difficult year for him.
This is the team we've been waiting all our lives to see. Don't ever, ever forget what you're watching in 2016. The players notice, too:
#Cubs Arrieta: "The resiliency of our team was incredible. ... Just a crazy ballgame all the way around. So many things happened"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 30, 2016
What a game, this is why I said : #WeAreWarriors # I Wish I Could Be Here Forever With This Young And Special Team #NeverGiveNotTonight— Willson Contreras (@noslliw19) August 30, 2016
Can't really add much more to that. This team, man... this team. They never give up. It's a joy to watch. Monday night BCBers SackMan and slcathena joined us in the left-field bleachers for one of the most enjoyable games of 2016, and that's saying something, because there have been so many thrills this year.
With, hopefully, more to come in October.
One last game note: Since the Cubs won I won't make a big deal about the poor ball-and-strike calling of Tripp Gibson, who, according to @CubsUmp, missed 15 calls in this one, eight in favor of the Cubs, seven against.
A few numbers to wrap this up. The Cubs improved their home record to 46-19. That's a pace for 57 home wins, which would be a franchise record. The Cubs' six walks bring the season total to 528, or 4.06 per game. That's still enough, at that walk-per-game pace, to break the team record (650) -- the pace is for 658. And, the Cubs' magic number to clinch the N.L. Central title dropped to 19, that number improving by just one because the Cardinals also won in come-from-behind fashion Monday night against the Brewers.
The two teams will go at it again Tuesday night, weather permitting. Kyle Hendricks will go for the Cubs and Chad Kuhl for the Pirates.