As the Cubs crept back into the series opener against the Cardinals on Friday in the fifth inning I sort of had a hunch this game had a bit of magic in it. After all, rivalry games with the Cardinals are always a bit unpredictable, and this one had a special feeling about it from the start of the game as the Cubs welcomed back fans at 100 percent capacity to the Friendly Confines.
But even the presumption that the baseball gods were smiling down on Wrigley Field didn’t prepare me for Anthony Rizzo’s epic at-bat against Daniel Ponce de Leon in the bottom of the sixth inning.
After being down 0-2 Rizzo choked up like he always does, took a ball, and then began to foul away pitch after pitch. By the sixth pitch of the at bat you could tell something special was under way. On 670 the Score, Ron Coomer practically called this shot. And as irrational as this sounds, when this ball left the yard I knew the Cardinals would not win this baseball game. We’d all like to see this at bat again [VIDEO].
So let’s take a closer look at Rizzo’s 14-pitch at bat.
Javier Báez strikes out on a ball about five inches above the zone right before Rizzo comes to the plate. There is no shade to Javy on this one. He’s a free swinger and we’d all love it if he laid off those pitches more, but this one had some rise on it, identifying that would be important for Rizzo’s at bat at you’ll see in a minute:
Rizzo takes the first pitch, a high 93 mile per hour fastball that is just perfectly unhittable at the top of the zone while Boog and JD debate the best Bill Murray movies of all time (for the record, my top three on this list are Groundhog Day, Caddyshack and What About Bob):
The second pitch is an 86 MPH change up in the zone that Rizzo fouls off, it’s worth noting that Ponce de Leon is hitting his spots perfectly so far in this at bat (oh, and Ryan Dempster is torn between Caddyshack and Stripes):
The third pitch of this at bat almost pulled Yadier Molina out of his shoes and definitely did not hit its spot. It is a very high ball one on a 94 mile per hour fastball (and Boog and JD are pretty sure their favorite Murray movie is Groundhog Day):
The fourth pitch of this at bat is the first foul ball, and here’s where that Javy at bat comes into play. This pitch is high, but Rizzo saw the rise Ponce de Leon was getting in Javy’s at bat, so he has to swing at it. He does, and fouls off a 95 mile per hour fastball above the zone:
Yadi thinks this high fastball thing has a chance and goes there again, slightly more inside this time, Rizzo fouls that off too:
Yadi decides the high fastball isn’t fooling Rizzo and goes to the low outside corner for the next pitch, this 88 mile per hour changeup is a beauty, and perfectly placed to fool the hitter who is looking up after the last two pitches, but Rizzo fouls it off too:
An aside here, Rizzo’s at bat brought a lot of joy even before it was epic. Just look at the smiles on the faces of these fans who caught one of the first three foul balls:
Rizzo called time before the next pitch, and Yadi is clearly trying to mix it up a bit. I imagine both he and Ponce de Leon were frustrated as Rizzo fouls off a perfect placed 78 mile per hour curve ball on the outside corner:
At this point Rizzo has demonstrated he’s seeing these pitches incredibly well. He’s seeing location, pitch type, and speed changes. Seven pitches into this at bat the fans are about to get into it and you can feel the momentum shift. For the eighth offering, Yadi sets up high and outside again, but this time with a 78 mile per hour curveball. Rizzo fouls that one off too:
It is worth noting that we are eight pitches into this at bat and the count is still 1-2. It is also worth noting that this kid is going to be a fan for life courtesy of this Rizzo at bat:
The ninth pitch of this at bat is another high and away fastball. It’s at 96 and above the zone, but remember, Rizzo is protecting up there after the Javy at bat, so he fouls this one away too. The fans are super into it now, and while that probably isn’t impacting Yadi all that much I have to imagine it’s having an effect on Ponce de Leon who has been in a pitcher’s count for seven pitches now and keeps making good pitches only to see them spoiled:
So we are nine pitches into this at bat. Willson Contreras is pacing in the on deck circle and the fans at Wrigley are increasingly loud. This is the moment where I just felt like this bat was going to end well for the Cubs:
The 10th pitch of the at bat is only the second ball, and the crowd erupts like Rizzo just hit a walk off. One of the greatest parts of the Wrigley Field fan experience is that the crowd is almost always paying attention and they don’t need signs telling them to “Get Loud” or “Make Noise.” In terms of this at bat, Ponce de Leon missing with this 96 mile per hour heater shows signs of his increasing frustration:
Marquee Sports Network took this moment to highlight the pitch location in the at bat to this point. You can clearly see the game plan is to go to high fastballs, with periodic changes in movement and location to the bottom corner of the zone:
The 11th offering is a change up on the outside edge of the zone. This pitch is exactly where Molina wants it and perfectly thrown to mess with Rizzo’s timing and location. Rizzo turns it into the seventh foul ball of the at bat and the Ponce de Leon looks up to the sky like “What do I need to do to get this guy out?”:
I can’t even imagine the frustration. Ponce de Leon had Rizzo down 0-2, he’s thrown nine pitches to the Cubs first baseman since then and only two of those pitches missed. He must sense this isn’t going to go his way.
Foul ball the eighth is an 96 mile per hour heater above the zone and the crowd goes wild:
Prior to the 13th pitch of this at bat the crowd is on their feet:
The 13th pitch of this at bat was unlucky for the Cardinals. It was another perfectly placed 95 mile per hour fastball right at the top of the zone, and Rizzo spoiled it. Again:
In a truly veteran move, Yadi knows this at bat has gone on too long, he knows the crowd is into it and his pitcher must be nearing the end of his ability to keep throwing perfectly placed pitches. He stands up to try and delay the game and disrupt Rizzo’s rhythm. The crowd boos and honestly I just love all of it:
But even Yadi had to know where this was going, and all he did was delay the inevitable. For the fourteenth pitch of this at bat Yadi tries to go inside and on the plate with a 96 mile per hour fastball. There is a really good reason you haven’t seen a pitch in this location since the second pitch of the at bat, because Rizzo knows exactly what to so with this one:
Rizzo muscles over the right field wall with a bit of an off-kilter swing, despite being choked up on the bat. This ties the game and the crowd roars like it’s October:
Rizzo is fired up:
So is Nico Hoerner:
Contreras had the best view in the house of that at bat and greets Rizzo with a round of applause as he crosses home plate:
The Hall of Famers approve:
Joc Pederson greets Rizzo with a celebratory chest bump:
And the fans obviously love it:
There is only one way to celebrate an epic at bat like this one, and that is a curtain call for the first packed house at Wrigley Field since 2019: