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The Cubs showed us Friday how baseball is intense, weird and wonderful

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The Cubs dominated a strange affair against the White Sox to drop their magic number to 1.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox
Kyle Schwarber does a somersault after sliding into first base for a single
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

By now you’ve surely read Al’s recap of last night’s critical Cubs victory over the Chicago White Sox. You might have even noticed some odd highlights from last night and just chalked it up to baseball being baseball. To be honest, that’s how this article began — I was going to write about Willson Contreras and bat flips (because, obviously, of course I was) and as I started writing that piece I kept thinking about all of the other wonderfully weird things that happened during the game that I also wanted to write about.

The thing about weird baseball is that it’s always right there. For example, who would have thought the final act of Ben Zobrist’s career would be striking out Yadier Molina? Yet almost exactly a year ago, that’s exactly what happened. Admit it, you want to see it again [VIDEO].

So with that in mind, as one of the weirdest regular seasons in baseball history comes to a close here are five particularly strange events from Friday’s game — a game that had a much better outcome than the Cubs’ final game last season.

Willson Contreras loves the Crosstown Classic

Okay, so I’m going to get to the bat flip in a second, but before I do that I need to talk about Willson Contreras and the Crosstown Classic. On May 11, 2018 the White Sox came to Wrigley Field and the Cubs happened to be giving away a Willson Contreras bobblehead that day. Three hours and forty-five minutes later Contreras had gone 4-for-5 with two home runs (including a grand slam) and two doubles. He drove in seven of the Cubs’ 11 runs that day, and he also picked off Matt Davidson at second base for good measure. The Cubs tapped into something bigger than the rest of us on Willson Contreras bobblehead day in 2018 and their catcher has never looked back.

In June 2019 he did it again — going 2-for-3 with, wait for it, a grand slam and a solo shot, for five RBIs in a Cubs 7-3 victory over the Sox.

Look - there is something about Contreras and the Crosstown Classic. I am not going to pretend to know what it is, but it was on display on the South Side last night when he had ANOTHER two-homer game against the South Siders including a three-run shot to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead followed by one of the greatest bat flips I’ve ever seen in my life [VIDEO].

I love hearing JD say “the bat’s higher than the ball.” I love that the bat flip was still trending three hours later when I started writing this piece. I love that people were making jokes about the bat being in outer space or interfering with air traffic at Midway. I love that Marquee Sports Network put up a Statcast graphic of the bat flip:

Most of all I love Willson’s explanation of that moment:

And let’s be really clear, this wasn’t about the White Sox, it was about the Cubs. Over the last week the Cubs had the worst offense in baseball by wRC+. They have needed to win a handful of games to clinch the division for days and they have not been able to move the magic number. Willson didn’t flip his bat at the White Sox, he flipped it for the Cubs:

Jordan Bastian added this gem:

Before Friday’s game, Contreras said Anthony Rizzo actually instructed him to do something to energize the team if he went deep. That was on his mind when he crushed the three-run shot off Cease.

“[He said], ‘Hey, if you hit a homer, just do something exciting. Just do a bat flip,’” Contreras said. “I was having fun. I hit the ball. I knew that it was gone. I knew that my team needed its swagger back.”

No one in the Cubs dugout had any problems with Willson firing his team up as they try to clinch the division as you can see from this comment from David Ross:

However, an interesting part of the bat flip for me is that it wasn’t the only bat flip Contreras had in the game. In the seventh inning Jimmy Cordero decided to hit Willson with a 97 mile per hour fastball, I guess to enforce some inane unwritten rule. The story most people want to tell about this today centers (probably rightly) around the ejections of Cordero, Ricky Renteria and Don Cooper. You can read that story anywhere. I would like to point out that Willson bat flipped the HBP before coming around to score later in the inning [VIDEO]:

I really don’t feel like the word swagger even comes close to describing bat flipping the HBP that happened because of a bat flip. But you can see it in his eyes, immediately after flipping his bat:

Willson Contreras is not amused by your 97 mile per hour fastball to his shoulder
NBC Sports Chicago

For that matter, Anthony Rizzo and the Cubs dugout isn’t amused either. I’ve seen this look on Rizzo’s face before — Aroldis Chapman also saw it in 2014 in Cincinnati.

Anthony Rizzo is not here for your unwritten rules
NBC Sports Chicago

At the end of the game I noticed an incredible gesture from Rizzo to Contreras as the Cubs left the field, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it since we are all limited to the Cubs coverage we see on TV each day. Luckily, Marquee Sports Network’s Scott Changnon had the context I didn’t:

If this is the beginning of the offensive outbreak the Cubs have been waiting for we will look back at Contreras’ bat flip as a catalyst for the team. Everything I saw from Rizzo and Ross last night indicates they saw the potential in this moment too.

Kyle Schwarber hits bombs and does somersaults

So originally, that was the entire post. Willson Contreras flipping bats is the story of the game, but there were other gems we need to discuss. Let’s start with Kyle Schwarber.

Less than a week since he was pulled from a game on Sunday Night Baseball for misplaying a ball off the left field wall at Wrigley Field, Schwarber seems determined to never have his ability to hustle questioned ever again. He got the Cubs scoring started with an opposite field home run that left his bat at 103.9 miles per hour, but I honestly thought him legging out an infield single was more impressive - even though the ill-advised feet first slide could have ended worse than a somersault:

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Kyle Schwarber doing a somersault over first base to leg out an infield single
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Jeffress celebrates Victor Caratini’s home run

Victor Caratini hit his first home run of 2020 in the sixth inning to make the game 7-0 and I feel terrible that instead of spending more time talking about what was really a very nice piece of hitting from his weaker side we are going to have to talk about Jeremy Jeffress instead. Let’s start with the video:

Caratini has 15 career home run and last night’s was only his second from the right side. It’s an impressive at bat. But have you ever seen one of those wedding pictures where everything is lovely until you realize one of the groomsmen thought it would be funny to photobomb the shot? Well, it turns out Jeremy Jeffress is that guy:

Jeremy Jeffress, ladies and gentlemen
Marquee Sports Network

Okay, so as far as I can tell, Jeffress had a plan here, because you can see him in the same position as Madrigal goes back to see if he has a chance to catch the ball. I’d like to think he was trying to distract the right fielder in case Caratini’s ball didn’t have the distance:

Jeffress attempts a distraction
Marquee Sports Network

This is basically the bullpen equivalent of yelling “hey batter batter” but funnier and likely more effective. I have no idea if I’m right about what Jeffress is doing here but it really doesn’t matter. I’m going to need a GIF of it STAT.

Javy gets a double batting left-handed

In a world of dozens of amazing el Mago facts I think my favorite fact about Javier Báez is that he’s naturally left-handed. He trained himself to field right-handed to play shortstop at a young age, and while we’ll never prove it I’ve always had a hunch that it’s part of his tagging ability.

A couple years ago in Spring Training, Javy took batting practice left-handed and it reminded me of one of my favorite movies, so I had to make this:

Javy is a basically Inigo Montoya

Last night we were all treated to Javy’s second left-handed at bat in the majors, and it will shock exactly no one to know he’s now a .500 hitter from the left side [VIDEO]:

It was a brilliant moment, it was an improbable moment, but most of all it was a fun moment.

I’ve written a lot of words in 2020 that have reflected where we are — first, when there was no baseball and later, documenting the pain of our current society as it relates to baseball. I don’t regret any of those words, especially not the ones that were hard to write. However, last night’s game was a reminder that even in the midst of pain, grief and uncertainty baseball is wondrously weird and fun.

The Cubs’ magic number to win the division is 1. Here’s hoping we can all enjoy dozens of intense, silly and delightful moments as the Cubs make their first postseason appearance since 2018.