Addison Russell bringing a new plate of nachos to a Cardinals fan was the comic relief in this win, which brought the Cubs to a season-high 20 games over .500 at 88-68. They led the N.L. Central by six games and their magic number dropped to one as they clinched a tie for the division title.
Addison Russell smashed a three-run double in the first inning, beginning a 10-2 rout of the Cardinals that put the Cubs one win away from their second straight N.L. Central title, and all you want is for me to talk about nachos.
With the Cubs leading 5-0 in the bottom of the second inning, Jedd Gyorko fouled a ball off down the left-field line. Russell went after it, and...
Addison Russell goes in the stands and comes up with nachos. pic.twitter.com/7uCvNgtRYm— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) September 26, 2017
Nachos all over the place (and cheese all over Russell’s right arm), and the Cardinals grounds crew just swept them under the stands and left them there for the rest of the game. The nachos were quickly replaced by the Cardinals stadium staff:
Cardinals' fan gets new nachos from the usher. pic.twitter.com/jSbRkXMmKD— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) September 26, 2017
But that wasn’t the end of the story, as told by Paul Sullivan of the Tribune, who went to the area and spoke with Andrew Gudermuth, the Cardinals fan who had bought the nachos:
Maddon suggested Russell go down to the clubhouse and bring Gudermuth a new plate of nachos.
"Pretty entertaining," Maddon said. "We sent him some nachos to replace the broken nachos."
The two shook hands, Russell apologized again and took a selfie with Gudermuth.
"Normally I don't do that, but being the case of me being nacho'd all over, my cleats even, I was like, you know what, why not?" Russell said. "A once in a lifetime experience."
How good is this? Addison Russell brings the nachos guy more nachos from the dugout. pic.twitter.com/rp8Bs5FP8x— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) September 26, 2017
You can’t make this stuff up, and it’s all part of what Joe Maddon always says: “Don’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” The Cubs are pushing hard for a division title, and yet they can take time to do something fun in the middle of the game. Gudermuth sent out this tweet thanking both the Cubs and Cardinals:
@cardinals thanks for the loaded nachos @cubs thanks for the plain nachos. Thank you cubs and cards. Unforgettable. #nachoman pic.twitter.com/OGvnyfRN7t— nacho man (@guder82) September 26, 2017
It didn’t hurt that they were up 5-0 at this point. Russell’s three-run double was followed by another double by Jason Heyward to make it 4-0 before the Cardinals even batted. They added the fifth run in the second inning thanks to Kris Bryant:
Bye, bye Birdies pic.twitter.com/wn2oxWv210— Cubs Talk (@CSNCubs) September 26, 2017
Fireworks went off for KB’s 29th home run of the season, and no one’s really sure why. Could the folks that set off fireworks for Cardinals home runs have heard the cheers and thought it was a homer for the home team?
It became 5-1 just two pitches after the nacho incident; Gyorko sent a Jon Lester pitch into the seats. But that was the only run off Lester, who looked much, much better than in his previous two starts. Lester finished six full innings, allowing just four hits (all singles) besides Gyorko’s home run, and put himself back in the mix to start one of the first postseason games.
Javier Baez, never one to shy away from batting fun, made it 8-1 in the third:
3-run homer for Javy Baez and a little Sammy Sosa hop! pic.twitter.com/haDYRLWs7Y— Kevin Marchina (@kg_holler) September 26, 2017
Javy’s 23rd gave him 75 RBI on the season. He would later leave the game after fouling a ball off his right knee, but even then, he stayed in the game and singled before departing. Fortunately, he seems to be OK:
"I thought it was really bad," Baez said. "But after, it was a big bruise and very sore."
I imagine Baez will likely play Tuesday night, but after that, presuming the Cubs clinch, he’ll get some time off to rest the bruised knee.
After Baez’s single, which had followed Ben Zobrist reaching on an error, Tommy La Stella and Jon Jay hit RBI singles to make it 10-2. The Cardinals had scored the second run on a homer by Luke Voit off Brian Duensing, a rare event: Duensing hadn’t allowed a home run in his previous 39 outings dating back to June 22.
Hector Rondon, making his second appearance since sitting out two weeks, retired the only two hitters he faced and Justin Grimm threw two scoreless innings. It still doesn’t seem likely that Grimm will be on any postseason roster.
Baez and Zobrist both had two hits on the night and Bryant had three. For KB, that raised his batting average to .297, putting him within reach of his first .300 BA season. It’s certainly true that BA isn’t the be-all and end-all of hitting numbers, but a .300 season is still considered a good milestone for any hitter. Since July 28, Bryant is hitting .346/.449/.602 with 17 doubles and 10 home runs in 191 at-bats. His season OBP of .411 ranks fourth in the National League (just behind Justin Turner at .414 and Paul Goldschmidt at .412) and his season OPS, .954, ranks sixth. He’s also fourth in runs scored with 110. Bryant likely won’t win a second straight MVP award, but as noted on the broadcast Monday night, he’s put himself in the conversation.
The Cubs, in addition to eliminating the Cardinals and reducing their division-clinching elimination number over the Brewers to one, reached a season-high 20 games over .500 with the win, and are now 45-23 since the All-Star break. Other milestones: The Cubs need one more walk for 600 this season, and seven more runs for 800. Their current total of 793 runs is now tied with the Nationals for the most in the National League this year.
So the Cubs can have a division-clinching party with a victory tonight in St. Louis, likely in front of another large contingent of Cubs fans. The Cubs could also clinch with a Brewers loss to the Reds Tuesday night in Milwaukee. That seems unlikely, as the Reds have lost six in a row and the Brewers have won five of the six games played between the two teams at Miller Park this year. Besides, it’s much more fun to see a team qualify for the postseason by winning.
Jake Arrieta will try to take care of that business for the Cubs Tuesday night in St. Louis. Carlos Martinez starts for the Cardinals. Game time is 7:15 p.m. CT.