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A magical night at Wrigley in three acts: Michael Fulmer, Nick Madrigal and Christopher Morel

None of these things should have happened but all of them did, thanks to those three players.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs
A joyous celebration at home plate as Morel walksoff the Crosstown Classic
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The vast majority of the time, baseball is wildly predictable. Some detractors of the sport might even say it’s boring, but every so often it gets adventurous. After being conditioned to the nap-worthy lulls with predictable peaks for weeks on end you may wonder if you should tune in, or schedule other necessary life activities during a game. It is almost guaranteed that at this moment the baseball gods will find you and unleash the one to two percent of the time the sport just really goes off.

One of those nights was Wednesday night at Wrigley Field as the Cubs seemed like they were going to capitulate to mediocrity once again.

After an eight-game winning streak to stave off Jed Hoyer’s third annual fire sale, the Cubs faltered a bit and ended a seven-series win streak by dropping two of three to the Mets. They looked similarly flat Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox, and let me tell you, root canals might be more fun than listening to gloating Sox fans at Wrigley Field in the late innings was on Tuesday.

So Wednesday night I made dinner plans with a friend and decided I’d watch the game at home. I was half working on another article with the game on the TV when I heard the unmistakable roar of the Wrigley Field crowd through my closed window. That was the first of three times I’d hear that unmistakable noise Wednesday night, and decided to pivot to this piece instead. Let’s look at three moments heard all around Lakeview, little bits of the best baseball can offer echoing from one of baseball’s most hallowed cathedrals.

Michael Fulmer strikes out the side

Jose Cuas faced three batters in the top of the eighth and wound up loading the bases, which created a virtually impossible situation for Michael Fulmer. Fulmer entered the game to face Luis Robert Jr., Yoán Moncada and Andrew Vaughn with the Cubs already down three.

Now, I’m one of many fans who has been skeptical of Fulmer after his rough start with the Cubs this season, but he’s been much better lately. However, even much better Fulmer didn’t prepare me to look up and see him strike out the White Sox best hitter on three pitches. In fact, Fulmer racked up his first two strikeouts on the bare minimum six pitches and got to two strikes on Vaughn on just eight pitches. He ultimately struck out the heart of the White Sox lineup, with the bases loaded, on 11 pitches. I have no idea what the probability of that is, but it is certainly low and I heard the crowd reacting on my couch before I saw the final strikeout on TV. Let’s watch it again [VIDEO].

Nick Madrigal hits a home run

I was pretty sure that Fulmer outing was the best thing that was going to happen in this game and I was pretty jazzed about the prospect of writing it up today when I heard the crowd roar again, and my immediate thought was: “There is no way they are coming back this late...” Well, every now and again baseball has the most unexpected heroes, and last night Nick Madrigal was one of those heroes [VIDEO].

Earlier this week I waxed poetic a bit about ISO and Patrick Wisdom. Nick Madrigal is basically the opposite of Patrick Wisdom — he has an excellent contact tool and almost no power. But the thing about baseball stats is that they describe what has happened in the past and while they give us a really good sense of the probability of a range of future outcomes, they are not predictive.

So, Nick Madrigal walked to the plate last night in the bottom of the eighth inning and hit his fourth home run in 765 career plate appearances to finally put up a run for the Cubs in the final game of the Crosstown Classic.

Baseball’s gonna baseball, man.

Christopher Morel walks it off

Even with Madrigal’s home run and Fulmer’s incredible pitching outing in the eighth I was trying to keep my expectations level. I mean, how much wizardry can one baseball game have? Besides, the Cubs were down two and while the White Sox sent most of their talented pitchers to other teams at the trade deadline, Gregory Santos is still filthy. That’s why the win probability chart for this game looked like this entering the ninth, despite Fulmer and Madrigal’s best efforts:

Win Probability
Baseball Savant

Cody Bellinger led off with a double, and by now I had the window open so I could hear the crowd as that ball left his bat. I knew something good was coming. Sure enough, 30 seconds or so later I saw the double on my TV and my expectations went just a tiny bit higher.

By the time Dansby Swanson walked and Christopher Morel strode to the plate I was absolutely failing at keeping my emotions in check. I was standing in front of the TV, my hands clenched around my thumbs because I heard years ago that some people think that’s good luck — something I’ve never bothered to fact check, but have continued to do since I was a kid.

And then I heard a roar erupt from Wrigley Field that I have never heard from my couch before. It was loud, emphatic, rolling and I got chills waiting for my TV to catch up. I knew that sound from being at the David Bote Ultimate Grand Slam game and I just said “Oh My God” over and over. I could still hear the crescendo rising when my TV showed the home run. This video the Cubs released today captures the moment well:

But this drone shot of the crowd captures the sound that echoed through the neighborhood on a night that epitomized the beauty of baseball:

I could watch highlights of this home run for days (and let’s be honest, I probably will) but I’ll leave you all with just two more that really understood the assignment. First up, Cliff Floyd in the Marquee Sports Network postgame:

And last, but certainly not least: Miguel Esparza’s call en español — you do not need to understand Spanish to appreciate this call:

It doesn’t matter what language you speak, whether you heard it from your couch, or watched the game on TV, this walkoff was a moment of pure baseball joy — the type of joy Morel plays with every day. The type of moment that defines a season and sets a team on fire. It was exactly what the Cubs needed as they fight for a playoff spot.

Morel rounds the bases ecstatically
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports