Matt Szczur, who’s in the photo at the top of this post, was involved in the game-winning play in the 13th inning. He played just two more games in a Cubs uniform after this one before he was traded to the Padres.
The Cubs were 16-12 after this win and led the N.L. Central by 1½ games.
It looked like it was going to be yet another extra-inning, inning-ending double-play ball.
And then, suddenly, it wasn’t:
Freddy Galvis threw away a relay throw on what looked like an easy double play on a Matt Szczur grounder. Albert Almora Jr. scampered across the plate and the Cubs had a 5-4, 13-inning win over the Phillies that took their series three games to one.
That happened four hours, 22 minutes after the first pitch was thrown by John Lackey and there’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s rewind to the beginning.
For the first time since last Saturday, the Cubs didn’t give up any runs in the first inning. Lackey gave up a two-out double but then struck out Maikel Franco to end the inning.
Then the Cubs scored a first-inning run of their own on an RBI double by Addison Russell. They extended the lead to 2-0 on a double by Szczur in the second inning.
Not content to be leading, Lackey wound up coughing up the lead, slowly, slowly... one run each in the third, fourth and fifth innings for the Phillies off Lackey gave them a 3-2 lead. Lackey originally looked as if he might be able to throw six innings again, but after he gave two hits to lead off the sixth, that was it.
By this time the Cubs had tied the game again on a sacrifice fly by Miguel Montero in the fifth. They had a scoring chance with two out in the fourth on a double by Lackey, but Aaron Altherr robbed Szczur [VIDEO].
Credit where it’s due, that was a terrific play.
Brian Duensing relieved Lackey with runners on first and third and nobody out in the sixth and Galvis hit the ball really hard. Fortunately, he it it right at Anthony Rizzo [VIDEO].
Rizzo stepped on first for an easy double play and Duensing got pitcher Zach Eflin to fly to right to end the inning.
In the seventh, Justin Grimm got himself in trouble, loading the bases with two out on two singles and a walk. There was a third hit in the inning, but Javier Baez made one of his patented Javy tags on Cesar Hernandez trying to stretch it into a double. Otherwise this one might have ended way before it did and not well for the Cubs.
Pedro Strop relieved Grimm and struck out Tommy Joseph to end the seventh.
The teams traded homers in the eighth. Cameron Rupp homered off Carl Edwards Jr., the first run he’d allowed this year. I was somewhat surprised Joe Maddon didn’t let Strop start the eighth, as he’d thrown only four pitches.
But Miguel Montero got that run back in the bottom of the inning [VIDEO].
That might have actually been expected:
Major league high 21 homers for Phillies bullpen— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) May 4, 2017
Then Joe did something I thought was very odd. He took Miggy out of the game and replaced him with Willson Contreras. Wade Davis came in to pitch the ninth... but Joe didn’t do the obvious double switch. I suppose he had already decided he wanted Ben Zobrist to lead off the bottom of the ninth (because Davis wasn’t going to throw more than one inning), but Contreras would have worked just as well in that spot, I thought.
Zobrist led off the ninth with a single and after Szczur sacrificed him to second, Jeanmar Gomez ran the count to 3-1 before the Phillies gave him a “Manfred” (what I sometimes call the automatic intentional walk).
Unfortunately, Zobs got himself picked off second base. Really unfortunate, because Kris Bryant then singled (his fourth hit of the afternoon), which would at the very worst have loaded the bases with one out. Instead, it was runners on first and second with two out, and Rizzo hit a comebacker, and on to extras we went.
The teams went 1-2-3 in the 10th, with Mike Montgomery now throwing for the Cubs. In the 11th, with Monty still out there, the Phillies loaded the bases with one out on a walk, a single and a Manfred. (Good thing we’re saving 30 seconds at a time in a game that went four hours, 22 minutes, right Rob?)
But Montgomery struck out Michael Saunders and got pinch-hitter Andres Blanco (remember him from his year with the Cubs? That was eight years ago!) to pop to second.
The Cubs’ next shot at scoring was in the 12th. Jason Heyward, who was supposed to get the day off, was the team’s last position player. He walked batting for Montgomery, and Bryant also walked. After another comebacker from Rizzo moved the runners to second and third, we had the third Manfred of the game issued to Russell.
The Phillies replaced Saunders with infielder Ty Kelly, who took up the “fifth infielder” position in the middle of the diamond. And Kelly wound up as part of a 6-9-3 double play (how often do you see that sequence?) to end the inning.
Joe had Hector Rondon warming up for a while, but eventually switched to Koji Uehara, as Cubs fans held their breath hoping that throwing on back-to-back days wouldn’t be the harbinger of doom for Koji, as it had the last two times he did that.
Not this time! He dispatched the Phillies 1-2-3 on nine pitches.
That set up the Cubs’ winning rally. Almora laced a ball down the left-field line. Kelly, who is primarily an infielder, switched positions with Altherr and moved to left. Kelly momentarily fumbled it and that allowed Almora to get to second with a double. Baez grounded out, we got our fourth Manfred of the day to Zobrist and then Szczur hit the ground ball that looked like it was going to send the game to the 14th inning.
Until it didn’t, and the Cubs had their third win in a row.
It wasn’t pretty, and the Cubs went just 1-for-14 (!) with RISP and left 11 men on base. But a win, as they say, is a win.
Mike Montgomery has become the go-to guy when the Cubs need multiple innings in relief. He’s done well, at least in the not-allowing-runs department, as he’s now thrown 19 innings and allowed just three earned runs. But he walked two (one a Manfred) and threw a lot of pitches (45). I’d really like to see him get better command.
The Cubs improve to 16-12 and 7-6 at Wrigley Field, the first time they’ve been over .500 at home since they won two of three from the Dodgers in the opening home series this year. They will have a tough test this weekend with the Yankees in town. Kyle Hendricks will throw the series opener Friday afternoon against Michael Pineda.