That went from exciting to tense to sad to exhilarating, all within about 20 minutes.
Jason Hammel was largely effective tonight for his 5.2 innings of work, and it was a little surprising to see him pulled when he was. It could be that he’s now falling into that group for whom Joe Maddon has the quick hook during the third time through the order, but Hammel’s actually been effective late in games this year. That makes me wonder if there’s an abundance of caution still about Hammel’s hamstring/leg injury. Either way, it didn’t seem like Hammel wanted to leave the game after throwing only 65 pitches.
Clayton Richard relieved Hammel, and was hitting the mid-90s out of the pen – a very interesting development.
The game was briefly overshadowed – in a good way – during the 6th inning when Anthony Rizzo made one of the most incredible foul territory catches you’ll ever see. It was, in some ways, emblematic of the whole game for the Cubs, which was littered with impressive defense. There were defensive highlights for miles, which is what you often need to win a low-scoring, one-run game.
The one bad play in the field, though, came at an inopportune time in the 9th inning, with the Cubs clinging to a one-run lead and a runner on first. Adam Lind grounded one up the middle and Addison Russell did a nice job ranging to his left to get to it, but then made a bad decision/toss to Starlin Castro at second. Everyone was safe. Hector Rondon uncorked a wild one from there, and it got mighty tense with the tying runner at third and the lead runner at second, with nobody out. Rondon nearly got out of it with his nasty sliders again … but you live by it and you die by it. He bounced one too many, and the tying run scored on another wild pitch. Rondon struck out the side, but one pitch too late.
Some folks were – mistakenly, in my view – giving Miguel Montero grief for not blocking Rondon’s wild pitches, but it’s hard to do it so many times in one inning when a guy is that nasty and spikes a few.
Not that it mattered to anybody by the time Montero was done with his night …