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Cubs 7, Pirates 6: Frank Schwindel does it yet again

This time, on a headfirst slide into first base!

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Watch enough baseball games and you’ll see things you’ll have never seen before.

Saturday afternoon, that was Frank Schwindel diving into first base safely as the Cubs’ winning run crossed the plate — but uh-oh, the Pirates asked for a review. It took a couple minutes, but the review crew upheld the call on the field and the Cubs had an improbable 7-6 walkoff win in which the Wrigley Field gameday crew played “Go Cubs Go” — twice.

Let’s rewind to the beginning of this long, but entertaining, Cubs victory, their fifth in a row.

Kyle Hendricks, who has been afflicted with longball-itis this year, served up a home run to Yoshi Tsutsugo in the first inning, his sixth in 41 at-bats since he’s joined the Pirates. That one hit the right-field video board. It was the 29th home run off Hendricks this year, by far his career worst (previously: 22 in 2018).

But Kyle settled down for the next three innings. This nice running catch by Rafael Ortega helped him out in the second [VIDEO].

The Cubs, though, could do nothing with JT Brubaker, just activated off the injured list by the Pirates for this game. In the fourth, Ian Happ led off with a double and after Brubaker walked Willson Contreras (also just off the IL today), he ran a 3-2 count on Patrick Wisdom and the Pirates training staff came onto the field. He left the game, later noted as shoulder discomfort.

Reliever Sam Howard completed a walk to Wisdom (by rule, charged to Brubaker) to load the bases with nobody out. That situation has been a recipe for disaster for the Cubs for a long time, but in this game they took advantage. Matt Duffy tied the game 1-1 [VIDEO].

Then a force play by Jason Heyward gave the Cubs the lead [VIDEO].

And another groundout by Sergio Alcántara made it 3-1 Cubs [VIDEO].

Not exactly scintillating offense, but a three-run inning in that situation is good stuff. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, as Hendricks seemed to lose control and command in the fifth. He issued three walks, hit a batter and gave up a single and was removed in favor of Trevor Megill. The Cubs were down 4-3 at the time, and Megill didn’t help things by allowing a two-run single to Wilmer Difo, the runs charged to Hendricks.

But Megill got out of the inning and in the bottom of the fifth, Schwindel made it 6-4 [VIDEO].

That ball struck the left-field video board, the first time both boards had been hit in the same game, and went a long way:

That’s 10 home runs for Schwindel in 135 at-bats this year (nine as a Cub in 115 at-bats). Is this sustainable? Probably not, but Schwindel is absolutely making the most of this opportunity to play every day. Good on him.

The rest of the Cubs bullpen did an excellent job of shutting down the Pirates the rest of the way. Megill threw a scoreless sixth, Michael Rucker two scoreless frames in the sixth and seventh, Rex Brothers the eighth, and Scott Effross gave up no runs in the ninth. The bullpen overall: 4⅓ innings, four hits, one walk, no runs, six strikeouts.

That set up one of the wackiest bottom of the ninth innings you’ll ever see. With one out, Duffy singled. Michael Hermosillo popped up for the second out after Duffy took second on defensive indifference. Alcántara walked, and Alfonso Rivas batted for Effross [VIDEO].

That scored Duffy to make it 6-5, and Alcántara took third, where he scored on a single by Ortega to tie the game [VIDEO].

You can see Pirates right fielder Ben Gamel’s diving attempt to end the game fail, allowing Ortega to reach and the run to score. Andrew Romine, who ran for Rivas, at first looked like he might try to score the winning run on the play, but thought better of it and held at third.

Ortega took second on defensive indifference, which got an ovation — first time I’d seen that on defensive indifference.

That set up Schwindel’s winning play [VIDEO].

Here’s another view of the play with the umpires signaling safe after review [VIDEO].

That situation is really about the only time it’s ever justifiable to slide headfirst into first base, knowing that if you are safe, the game’s over. Nicely played by Schwindel.

A couple more notes: This strikeout in the first inning was the 1,000th of Hendricks’ career [VIDEO].

So congrats to Kyle on that milestone, and also congratulations to Scott Effross, who posted his first MLB win in this game. Individual pitcher wins might not mean all that much in modern baseball, but it’s still a nice milestone for any rookie pitcher.

Lastly, a second Pirates pitcher had to leave the game with an injury. Former Cub Duane Underwood Jr., also an apparent shoulder problem [VIDEO].

Hope Underwood is OK; he always seemed like a good guy when he was a Cub, though he had to go elsewhere to get a MLB chance.

The Cubs will go for the four-game sweep Sunday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Zach Davies will start for the Cubs and Wil Crowe is the scheduled starter for the Pirates. Game time is 1:20 p.m. CT and TV coverage will be via Marquee Sports Network.