In the first half of Saturday’s game I was so incredibly frustrated by the strike zone that I thought this post would be a breakdown of the unbelievably one-sided nature of the missed calls early in the game. I still think the zone was unacceptable, but it seems petty to argue balls and strikes after one of the greatest Cubs’ comebacks I’ve ever seen. Besides, I’m an optimist by nature, so let’s look at an improbable and amazing nine run eighth inning instead.
I’m being very literal when I say improbable. This is the Fangraphs win probability chart for yesterday’s game:
In other words, the Cubs had virtually no chance to win yesterday’s game after they were down 9-1 in the third. And yet, if you looked closely, there were signs they weren’t going to give this one up easily.
So this Snapshot is devoted to the #WeNeverQuit moments in this game. Most of that happened with two outs in the eighth, but frankly there was another play that really set the stage.
Albert Almora Jr.: A savvy baserunner
Prior to the game there were rumors that Almora wouldn’t be able to play, he’d been scratched earlier this week with illness. But he made this start and honestly, he gave us a preview of the comeback early.
No, I’m not talking about his home run in the first. I’m talking about his scrappy small ball run in the third. Despite the Cubs being down 9-1, Almora was giving it his all and pieced together a run with brilliant baserunning, stealing second and then tagging up to head to third. At the time I was happy to see it, even if the end result was a Cubs loss. It showed so much heart. I loved that he was tagging up even though the Cubs were down eight runs.
The bottom of the eighth
Honestly, if you missed Almora’s scrappiness, or the Cubs chipping away in the sixth and the seventh to make it 10-5, I don’t blame you. I have a bit of a compulsion to pay attention though, no matter what. Saturday was no exception. The eighth inning was worth it. You can watch the highlights below [VIDEO].
It’s incredible. Let’s take a look at how the Cubs scored nine runs on three hits, ultimately coming all the way back to defeat the Braves 14-10.
Have I mentioned I love small ball a few times? Yes? Well, I’m going to mention it again. This was an inning built on walks, and smart at bats all done with two outs. The most critical moments all happened with two strikes. I loved every second of it.
I was sitting on the edge of my seat listening to Pat and Ron describe every pitch. Silently pleading with the universe “no whammies” as if I was on the old game show Press Your Luck.
Willson Contreras: An accidental bunt
Willson was down to his final strike when he accidentally hit a perfect bunt. He couldn’t have rolled the ball out on the field better. Since there were two outs and two strikes the runners were moving and it meant the only play Kurt Suzuki had was at first. Maybe if another catcher were running up the line the inning is over, but Willson has some speed.
One of Joe Maddon’s Maddonisms is “Respect 90” and Contreras always respects 90. He legs out a throw to give the Cubs a chance, making the score 10-6.
Ben Zobrist: Takes a walk
There is no one I’d rather have up with the game on the line than Ben Zobrist. He doesn’t try to do too much, he just wants to keep the line moving and yesterday he did just that by taking a walk as Jose Ramirez struggled to find the plate.
Javier Baez: Does Javy things
Javy does big things. It feels like everything he does is big. His instincts for the game are incredibly fun to watch, but he doesn’t inspire quite the level of confidence that Zobrist does in such a big spot. That entire at bat felt like there was an equal chance Javy would tie the game or end the rally with a spectacular strikeout.
So of course the count was full when Javy hit a perfectly placed double to clear the bases and tie the game at 10.
As Al said in the game recap, this is a pretty piece of hitting. Javy went with a well placed pitch and it found a gap in left center. You could tell when the ball left the infield that it was probably going to make it all the way to the wall.
Kyle Schwarber: a go-ahead walk
I was still getting over my shock that the Cubs had come all the way back from being down 10-2 when they loaded the bases again. At this point it’s clear that the Braves bullpen is struggling with control. Jose Ramirez has been pulled from the game and Sam Freeman is facing Kyle Schwarber, who of course works the count full. Once again the Cubs were down to their final strike.
But that ball wasn’t close to a strike. It’s well in and off the plate and the Cubs took the lead for the first time in the ballgame at 11-10. Amazingly, the Cubs weren’t done yet.
Tommy La Stella: Takes a walk
I know we are early in the season but at times it seems like the Cubs have been playing a bit tight. Everyone has seemed like they were pressing to make things happen rather than letting the game come to them. This inning and comeback showed incredible patience upand down the line up, including this four pitch walk from La Stella to make it 12-10 Cubs:
A wild pitch and a wild throw
Efren Navarro came into the game and the first pitch he saw from Peter Moylan was just a bit outside:
Schwarber took a large enough turn around third that Kurt Suzuki thought he might have a play, as he looked Schwarber back, La Stella decided to head a third of the way to third, so Suzuki tried to throw him out instead.
It was not a good idea.
That was all Schwarber needed to decide to come home for real, putting the ninth Cubs run of the inning on the board and making it 14-10 Cubs.
This pretty much sums up my feelings, and maybe your’s too. Here’s hoping that comeback was the spark the Cubs needed to get going in 2018.