Before we get into any of this, just remember that the Chicago Cubs won yesterday. They won, completing a sweep of the Washington Nationals, which came after a sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
That’s all that really matters, here.
How they won, and how they almost won earlier in the game, however, is fairly interesting and up for discussion.
If you recall, Jason Heyward was thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the 11th inning after a fairly aggressive send on a Kris Bryant double into the right center field gap. If you don’t remember this, it’s probably because Javy Baez walked it off in the bottom of the 13th inning with a laser shot out to left field, but Heyward’s attempt to win it in the 11th has been up for some debate.
With the game tied at three in the bottom of the eleventh inning, Kris Bryant stepped up to the plate with one out and Jason Heyward standing on first. Bryant lifted one into right center field, and then this happened:
Heyward left first base, rounded second and got the wave home from third base coach Gary Jones. Michael Taylor fielded the ball cleanly and efficiently in center field, hit the cut off man (Danny Espinosa), who turned around and made another strong (if slightly off the mark) throw to the plate, nailing Heyward.
It’s easy to look at this play and question why, with one out, you would possibly risk sending Heyward, as opposed to leaving him at third base an giving Anthony Rizzo a shot at winning it, but I’m not so sure it’s that simple.
First of all, Taylor cut down the ball at the very last second. Had he played it off the wall, Heyward scores easily and the Cubs win the game. Following that pick, he turns blindly, as the announcer acknowledges, and makes an oddly accurate 205 foot throw that hits Espinosa right on target. Espinosa, then, turns quickly and fires a 92.0 MPH heater to the plate, that Wilson Ramos makes a great catch and tag on, to get Heyward.
In other words, a heck of a lot had to go right for the Nationals in order to get the speedy and efficient base runner like Heyward at the plate. They did. Tip your cap.
It’s easy to be critical of the send in retrospect (obviously, he was thrown out), but in the moment, considering all of the variables that had to come together to get him, I don’t think it was that bad of a call. Would the Cubs do it again? Would you? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s close enough that it’s probably not worth wringing your hangs.
And hey, the Cubs won two innings later anyway. Plus, who doesn’t love a walk off Javy-bomb? Without the play at the plate, maybe that never happens!