The headline to this recap should give you a clue as to how I feel about that play. Cubs fans from the first decade of this century should well remember 2003-04 third-base coach Wendell Kim, known as “Wavin’ Wendell” because he often sent runners around third base to their doom at home plate.
That’s what we got from third-base coach Willie Harris Tuesday night in New York.
Situation: Jake Marisnick, pinch-running for Willson Contreras, is on first base with one out. Eric Sogard is at the plate, the count is 2-2.
Mets analyst Keith Hernandez had it exactly right: “What is he doing?”
On the clip, it’s also said Marisnick ran through a stop sign. That’s not correct, as Harris was clearly waving Marisnick home, and here are tweets from Cubs beat writers who were present at Citi Field confirming that:
that was a pretty shocking send by willie harris. Cubs should have first and third one out, but now it's sogard at second and two down, still trailing by one. heyward's made some strong contact tonight with nothing to show for it.— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) June 16, 2021
Willie Harris didn't hesitate or delay on that send, either. He was emphatically waving Marisnick around 3B the whole time. https://t.co/PRlVlNh8MI— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) June 16, 2021
(Note: Sogard was actually credited with a single, advancing to second on the play at the plate.)
Taking a cue from Sara’s Snapshots, let’s take a look at this screenshot from Marquee’s broadcast:
Mets second baseman Luis Guillorme, on the outfield grass, has the ball and is about to throw. Look where Marisnick is! He’s only about 10 feet past third base. On the other hand, look where Sogard is — about a third of the way toward second. If Marisnick pulls up right after the throw is made, the Cubs have runners on second and third with one out and lots of opportunities to score. Even if that doesn’t happen, the worst-case scenario here should have been runners on first and third with one out.
Marisnick’s speed made the play closer than it should have been — you can see on the video that he came within a foot or so of sliding around the tag and getting his hand on the plate.
But he didn’t, and now Sogard is in scoring position — but with two out and hitters who have not had much luck coming up next.
Jason Heyward walked — now, if that happens with Sogard on first (or second) and Marisnick on third, now the bases are loaded with one out. Or maybe with just one out Heyward can try a safety squeeze, or try to loft a ball in the air to the outfield for a sac fly.
Sergio Alcántara, who started out after his callup as a hot hitter, came up having been 0-for-9 since his home run Friday. He had struck out all three times he had previously batted in this game, and made it four K’s to end the game.
I understand aggressive baserunning in certain situations. In my view, this wasn’t one of those situations, especially on the road. David Ross disagrees:
David Ross says he doesn't have a problem with Willie Harris' decision to send Marisnick home in 9th.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) June 16, 2021
"That was a really nice relay, almost a blind turn & throw to get our fastest base runner, trying to make something happen there late. ... I err on the side of aggressiveness."
Hey, he’s the manager. But, as he notes: “That was a really nice relay... and throw.” Yes, from two of the better defensive players the Mets have, Kevin Pillar and Guillorme. That requires situational awareness on the part of the third-base coach. It’s my opinion that Willie Harris didn’t have that awareness Tuesday evening.
Here are a few notes on the rest of this game.
In the first inning, Kris Bryant was hit by a pitch [VIDEO].
KB remained in the game on base, but was removed for the bottom of the second on defense, replaced by Patrick Wisdom. Fortunately, it appears it’s not too serious for Bryant:
Kris Bryant has a bruised right hand, Ross says. X-rays were negative. #Cubs— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) June 16, 2021
Wisdom singled in the third and then Javier Báez hit a ball deep into the New York night [VIDEO].
That ball was crushed to the opposite field:
The Mets got the two runs back in the bottom of the inning off Alec Mills. Again, this was a case of not being able to close the door with two out and only a runner on first. Dominic Smith doubled and Pete Alonso singled both runners in.
The game remained tied until the fifth. Jonathan Villar singled with one out, and Mills was removed for Rex Brothers, who allowed a single and walk to load the bases. A sac fly by Alonso gave the Mets a 3-2 lead, the run charged to Mills, who I thought threw pretty well. Mills struck out six, a season high for him (of course, it was only his second start and first time this year he pitched into the fifth inning).
After that, the Cubs went down in order in the sixth, seventh and eighth, and Keegan Thompson and Dan Winkler held the Mets scoreless, in part thanks to this terrific stretch by Anthony Rizzo at first base [VIDEO].
And then came the ninth inning, and that’s where this recap began.
There’s no way of knowing whether the Cubs would have tied the game up if Marisnick had held third base on the aforementioned play. Personally, though, I would have liked their chances better if he had done so.
Fortunately for the Cubs, the Reds defeated the Brewers for the second straight night, so the Cubs remain tied with Milwaukee for first place in the NL Central at 38-29. The Reds, in third place, are three games back and the Cardinals, who won Tuesday, are four games behind in fourth place.
This series doesn’t get any easier, as Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who is utterly dominating the National League, is scheduled to start for the New Yorkers in Wednesday’s contest. The Cubs, a starter down at the moment, are planning to call up Robert Stock from Triple-A Iowa to start this game. While Stock has made 52 previous pitching appearances for the Padres and Red Sox from 2018-20, this will be his first big-league start.
It seems like a mismatch, right? But in baseball, you never know.
Game time is again 6:10 p.m. CT and TV coverage via Marquee Sports Network.
Should Willie Harris have sent Jake Marisnick home on Eric Sogard’s hit in the ninth inning?
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