You will never see a better at-bat by a Chicago Cubs player than the one Anthony Rizzo had in the sixth inning Friday afternoon:
In fact, it’s something no Cubs player had done at all in at least the last 33 years:
Anthony Rizzo just homered on the 14th pitch of a PA, to tie the game for the Cubs— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) June 11, 2021
That's the most pitches into a plate appearance that a Cubs player has hit a HR since pitch counts have been tracked (1988) pic.twitter.com/hq6CIhLUXT
Best of all, Rizzo’s homer tied the game 5-5 after the Cubs had gone behind 5-1. They then rallied late helped by a Joc Pederson double and defeated the Cardinals 8-5 behind a rocking crowd of 35,112 on a perfect summer afternoon in the first full-capacity game at Wrigley Field in 623 days.
Think the crowd didn’t matter?
“Those fans helped us win that game.” —Cubs manager David Ross— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 11, 2021
This game didn’t start out well, though, so let’s rewind to the beginning. The Cardinals scored first, in the second inning. Kohl Stewart got himself in trouble by hitting Tyler O’Neill with a pitch, and then two straight singles scored a run.
Stewart got himself into even more trouble in the third. He walked Cardinals pitcher Johan Oviedo on four pitches. I mean... seriously, you just can’t do that. Stewart did retire the next two hitters, but then two more singles made it 2-0 Cardinals.
The Cubs got one of the runs back in the fourth courtesy of Pederson [VIDEO].
But then Stewart AGAIN walked Oviedo on four pitches leading off the fifth.. I mean... c’mon. A single by Tommy Edman and double by Dylan Carlson made it 3-1 and that was it for Stewart and... yes, now I can see how the former No. 1 pick washed out of the Twins system.
Keegan Thompson relieved Stewart and retired the first batter he faced, but Nolan Arenado bounced a single up the middle that scored two runs and now it’s 5-1.
Thompson did get out of the inning and then the Cubs got to work in the bottom of the fifth. Willson Contreras worked a leadoff walk and one out later Jason Heyward singled him to third. Then this happened [VIDEO].
Yadier Molina’s passed ball made it 5-2 and put Heyward on second. That brought up Sergio Alcantara [VIDEO].
Alcantara has been a really pleasant surprise so far, playing strong defense and hitting for power. Now it’s 5-3 and oh, no, Sergio, don’t go too far off third, or... maybe that’ll score another run! [VIDEO]
I couldn’t tell if Alcantara was trying to draw a throw or if he just got too far off third base, but Molina’s throw went into left field and now it’s 5-4. People near me in the bleachers started chanting, “Yadi! Yadi!” Love it.
Tommy Nance entered to throw the sixth and walked pinch-hitter Lane Thomas with one out, but got out of the inning with a double play.
Javier Baez led off the sixth by striking out.
And then it was Rizzo’s turn. Here’s his entire 14-pitch at-bat [VIDEO].
Anthony was PUMPED!
I don’t know if you can get a real sense of how loud Wrigley was in that video, but it was LOUD. Not quite Miguel Montero in the NLCS loud, but... that was a thrilling moment at the ballyard, for sure. David Ross on this home run:
Ross, on Rizzo's 14-pitch home:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 11, 2021
"I was on the Dodger team when Alex Cora had the 18-pitch at-bat against Matt Clement. I would say that definitely rivals that one, with the atmosphere, the packed house, 100 percent, what the roller coaster of the day has been, the emotions."
Ross, continued:— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 11, 2021
"To have that type of at-bat, getting back here in this rivalry game, that was up there. There's a couple memories and moments that stand out to me from my playing career here. And that will definitely be one that will stick with me. I won't lose that moment."
I know I’ll remember that at-bat, that moment, for a very long time, one of the most indelible memories from all the games I’ve attended at Wrigley Field.
And most importantly, the homer tied the game 5-5.
Nance threw a 1-2-3 seventh — he has just been a revelation, now on the verge of becoming a key setup man for this outstanding bullpen the Cubs have put together.
The Cubs broke the game open in the seventh. Jason Heyward opened with an infield single, his second hit of the game. One out later, Jake Marisnick blooped a single to right and that brought up Pederson [VIDEO].
The ball didn’t miss being a three-run homer by much, and if I can open the complaint department door just a bit, Pederson probably could have made third base if he hadn’t stood and watched the ball just a bit. A subsequent groundout by Kris Bryant would have scored Pederson if he’d been on third. No matter, a two-run double is still an excellent result from Joc’s at-bat.
If you keep track of such things, the seventh-inning rally gave Nance his first major-league win.
Ryan Tepera threw a scoreless eighth and then Contreras padded the lead to three runs [VIDEO].
Now it’s 8-5 and that makes it Craig Kimbrel time. He dispatched the Cardinals 1-2-3 on just nine pitches for save number 16. Here’s the final out [VIDEO].
Once again, the Cubs received a stellar performance from the bullpen: five innings, three hits, one walk, no runs, five strikeouts. It’s the first time this year the Cubs have won a game where they trailed by four runs, and the crowd was into things from the first pitch. The announced crowd of 35,112 is about 85 percent of the ballpark’s capacity — the lack of a sellout perhaps attributable to the late announcement of Friday as the first day of full capacity, and some Cardinals fans who otherwise might have made the trip not able to come to Chicago on short notice. Still, it was a wonderful afternoon at the ballpark.
With the win, the Cubs take over first place in the NL Central by half a game, pending the result of the Brewers/Pirates game Friday night in Milwaukee. The Cardinals now trail the Cubs by four games.
The Cubs will go for the series win Saturday evening at Wrigley Field. Kyle Hendricks will start for the Cubs and John Gant is the scheduled starter for St. Louis. Game time is 6:15 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Fox-TV (regional — coverage map). A reminder that if you subscribe to MLB.TV or MLB Extra Innings you should be able to watch the Cubs game even if it’s not on the Fox affiliate in your market.
Onward and upward, these 2021 Cubs seem to have something special going on.