As Hector Rondon was escorted off the field yesterday for an exceedingly unintentional hit-by-pitch, the raucous excitement at Wrigley Field tempered just a bit. We hid it with anger and shouts about the fairness of the ejection, but the drop in confidence was noticeable. And by the time Matt Carpenter’s fly ball reached its apex – not yet in the seats, mind you – the mood shifted to downright funereal. We’d seen it before.
Then the next batter reached and I remarked to Tim @Aisle424 next to me at the game that this was lining up to see Pedro Strop once again face Jhonny Peralta with the game on the line … and I was happy about it. As I went on to joke in the EBS last night, it just felt like an opportunity for Strop and the Cubs to say eff you to whatever demonic specters plagued them, and an opportunity to forget about what happened back in July.
But did I really believe what I was saying?
I’m honest enough to admit I don’t know, but I didn’t have time to dwell in the dissonance because, after one more batter reached on Zac Rosscup, Pedro Strop was summoned to shut the door on the Cardinals with the tying run on first base, nobody out, and Jhonny Peralta coming to the plate.
And Strop freaking struck him out on three pitches.
From there, it was all academic. Which is not to say it wasn’t incredible – the final out, specifically. Addison Russell, who’d come into the game late as a sub, made one of his best diving plays of the year, which is saying a lot given the year he’s had:
The diving snare was impressive enough, and I remember thinking as the play was developing, “But how’s he going to get an out?”
With an absolutely insanely fast transfer and flip, using the momentum of his body’s bounce off the ground, that’s how. The Statcast metrics do a good job of capturing how quickly Russell got that ball from his glove to Javy Baez at second base.
And then everyone went absolutely nuts.
This team doesn’t have to choke anything away, even against the Cardinals, even when their closer’s been tossed, even when one reliever was ineffective, and even when the winning run is at the plate.
One more on Russell – the best shot you’ll see:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 19, 2015