Last night, Kyle Hendricks nearly made history with a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals, but things were spoiled in the ninth, after a Jeremy Hazelbaker home run ended his bid.
But before the no-hitter was broken up, it was saved/preserved on a couple of brilliantly-executed, back-to-back defensive plays from (none other than) Jason Heyward and Addison Russell.
The first came with no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Russell made an extremely difficult play in shallow left field look like a downright routine ground ball to the shortstop (naturally).
Check it out and be amazed:
As the first batter in the bottom of the sixth inning, Cardinals third baseman Jhonny Peralta sent a well-struck grounder towards the hole. Seemingly destined for left field, the grounder met the glove of a sliding Addison Russell, who back-handed it, popped up and made a stellar 85MPH throw to first base. Russell nailed Peralta by a couple steps and the no-hitter was preserved.
Then, on the very next play, Jason Heyward made a diving/falling catch into the stands down the right field line, and almost had the ball/his glove taken by a fan!
Hands to yourself, dude:
Had Heyward not come up with the ball, the no-hitter would have still been on, but that doesn’t take away from the impact of that play. Just about every no-hitter big involved one or more crazy plays that help limit the opportunities for the other team. A play like Heyward’s, plus the extra out it provides, helped move the game along and keep Hendricks’ pitch count low.
Here it is again in looping form:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 13, 2016
All joking aside, I’m pretty sure that Cardinal fan really was trying to finagle the ball out of Heyward’s glove, or maybe even jus take the whole glove off. It wouldn’t have been a problem, of course, given the high-speed, high-definition camera replays now available, but it was pretty wild/crazy to see nonetheless. And how about Javy Baez having his buddy’s back?
Heyward continues to be far and away the best defensive right fielder in the National League (and maybe baseball), while Russell is right up there among the best shortstops as well. There are so many different ways this Cubs team excels, but defense may be chief among them. And Russell and Heyward are two of the very best.