Friday, 13 October:
In true Friday the 13th fashion (the game did not end until after midnight EDT) the Chicago Cubs played a game more fit for a spook house on a gloomy Halloween night, outlasting the Washington Nationals 9-8 in a four and a half hour marathon that saw just about everything.
And that means everything.
Runners scoring on dropped third strikes. A veteran outfielder loses a flyball in the lights of a park he’s played over 500 games in. Umpire missing a batter interfering with the catcher, which ended up being the game.
A game that featured 15 walks and 21 strikeouts.
A star pitcher coming in for an easy cruise in relief and having a passed ball, catcher’s interference, a throwing error and a hit batter instead, all after two were out on easy strikeouts. Then seven batters followed with an infield single, a bloop single and a two run double.
Then the intentional walk, a dropped third strike that became a passed ball, followed by the throwing error, the catcher’s interference and the hit batter.
That’s a whole season of crazy in one inning.
The game resembled two punch drunk prizefighters in the 12th round clinging to each other and swinging wildly. But it was more the Cub team, the resilient, we know how to win Chicago Cubs, that stumbled, worn out with nothing left in the tank, to victory.
The Nationals still had weapons left. They had the luxury of Sean Doolittle to mow the Cubs in the 9th, while Wade Davis threw a 44 pitch, 2 1/3 inning stint that was a tribute to what a winner he is.
He was out of gas when he went in. His command was shaky, and he had no feel for his breaking balls. So, he resorted back to his starting days with Tampa, blew the dust off of his 2 seam fastball and pitched to survive.
He had a two run lead, and coughed up one.
But he saved his best stuff for the ninth. Smelling the prize, he bore down and found his best stuff of the evening, striking out Bryce Harper on an absolutely buried 12-6 curveball that Harper had no chance on.
Davis simply blew the last couple hitters away. After struggling to stay alive. Talk about a man who knows how to pitch.
Then there’s Contreras’ pickoff of Jose Lobaton. Initially called safe, Maddon challenged and the New York replay crew saw Lobaton, who had absolutely no business being off first base -there was a man on second- came off the bag just an inch or two.
But Rizzo held the tag on him. He was out.
This play, a classic Contreras move, bailed a struggling Davis out and ended the inning. It’s importance cannot be stressed. Meanwhile, Cub hitters were being mowed down by Ryan Madson and ultimately Sean Doolittle, who was seemingly wasted by Baker, pitching a superb ninth that meant nothing.
The Nationals had already really lost the game when Max Scherzer was pressed into a roll he wasn’t familiar with and the baseball gods did the rest. TBS, which shamelessly promoted Dusty Baker the entire series, didn’t help his karma any.
Even on the moment of the loss, one of their female reporters cornered Nats GM Mike Rizzo and demanded to know if he was going to be retained. Rizzo just smiled and gave the ‘vote of confidence’, aka the kiss of death.
Cubsquest has made no secret of it’s disdain for Baker, who hid in the dugout while the 2003 Cub team melted down. He wanted no part of that spooky Cub ‘curse’. The Nationals, loaded with talent but a defensively challenged one dimensional team, was managed by autopilot.
Whatever decision they make on his future is their business.
But Joe Maddon, who made as many tactical blunders as he ever has still had his team ready to win. The Cubs, who can play horrible at times, can still beat you in so many ways. The terrific double play they turned on Adam Lind was one.
It was picture book perfect, and it wasn’t an easy one. Or when Javy Baez threw out Trea Turner at home. As analyst Ron Darling pointed out, he is the only second baseman in baseball who can make that throw.
You just have to put up with him striking out in the ninth on a pitch that literally was over his head.
This was a game for the ages.
Terrible, awful, thrilling, panic stricken, amazing, brilliant and simply awesome. The most memorable game in Cub history, and that’s saying a lot.
They now jet off to Los Angeles, who should beat this worn out, ragged bunch in five games. That said, one wouldn’t want to be the Dodgers right now. This Cub team may not be the best in the league.
But they sure do know how to win…