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A Loss That Almost Never Happens, A No Bunt Decision, A So-So Strike Zone, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

I can’t believe the Cubs lost that game. I mean, I can believe it, because baseball is a cruel mistress, but it sure seemed like it had been an extremely long time since the Cubs blew a multi-run lead in the 9th inning.

And sure enough:

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  • It was one of those games where the Cubs easily could have lost it much earlier. The bats didn’t really do much, and Kyle Hendricks was living on the edge of a knife for the first several innings. If Jason Heyward doesn’t make both of his brilliant plays, the Cubs very well may be heading into that 9th inning trailing anyway. Or if Brett Gardner’s big homer comes earlier in the game, it doesn’t have the same psychic impact that it does when it comes in the 9th inning. Instead, we’d all just be thinking, “Well, the Cubs are down 3-2 heading into the 9th, hold ’em here in the top of the frame and then take your chances against Aroldis Chapman.” Maybe no one else finds that an interesting way to think about things in the wake of a tough loss, but I can’t help but mull the different ways I would feel if the very same loss had simply been structured in a different way. As it stood, yesterday’s was among the more painful, frustrating ways to structure it.
  • As for the inning against Chapman, the Cubs got a gift runner at second base with nobody out, and lefty Heyward coming up. Obvious bunt situation, right? The Yankees sure thought so, because they had everyone WAY in. Joe Maddon didn’t like the Cubs’ chances of pulling off a successful bunt against Chapman – very few players have been able to pull if off in recent years – so the call was just to play it straight (ESPN). That’s fine. The flip side argument is that lefties, in general, are basically never successful against Chapman anyway, so why not at least try the bunt? I don’t really feel passionately about this one either way, because the reality is that Chapman is just good, and often leaves you with no good choices. That’s kind of the point of what he does.
  • Of the fateful Brett Gardner at bat, Joe Maddon said after the game that the low and in slider that Gardner took out was probably the only pitch he could have done that with (agreed, though it didn’t look like a bad pitch after a long battle, it just didn’t get down and in enough), and that the team was “victimized” by a really tight strike zone (CSN video). By the Pitchf/x, there were several very close ones that were called balls, but they do show up outside the strike zone (though they were in the “typically called” strike zone). Going through each at bat in the 9th, really the only one you could say maybe should have featured a strikeout if the Cubs had gotten closer calls was the Chase Headley single. But that would have required two close balls flipping to strikes. Also, one ball to Jacoby Ellsbury, who walked on a 3-1 count, was very close to being a strike. But I feel like I’m stretching. Again, going by the Pitchf/x, I don’t think there’s much to complain about in that 9th inning. (All that said, the zone for the game was pretty brutally bad. And Maddon was right: it was tiny.)

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  • Willson Contreras insisted he was fine after taking a shot from Starlin Castro on the second of Jason Heyward’s catch-and-throw double plays (CSN). It was scary to see Contreras laid out, but he stayed in the game. As for the play if Castro doesn’t veer to the left into Contreras (for completely unknown reasons) he scores easily.
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
  • The bleachers were 80/20 Cubs/Yankees fans, and the Yankees fans were, for the most part, perfectly nice and not kicking up any dirt. Even when Gardner hit his home run, they were just enjoying themselves. Good showing by Yankees fans from my perspective.
  • Also a good Yankee showing: Aaron Judge. The monstrous young Yankees star threw/handed balls to kids in the bleachers and the outfield seating bowl between half innings, which is not something you see from opposing players (especially when they’re getting the business from the bleacher crowd). Judge even frequently picked out kids wearing Cubs gear, tossed them a ball, and stayed to watch to make sure the right kid got the ball. It was pretty much the nicest thing I’ve ever seen from a visiting player.
  • Another on Judge: he was in the outfield when the 7th Inning Stretch kicked up, and he was completely in awe. You could see in his face how much he was taking it all in, impressed by the crowd in the historic ballpark. He was so taken, in fact, that when his throwing partner threw him the ball, Judge nearly didn’t see it and almost took one in the head. His eyes went wide as he realized the ball was on its way, caught it, shook his head and laughed. Wrigley will do that to you.

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  • Think about the Cubs’ biggest players – they have several listed in the 6’3″ to 6’5″ range, at around 225 to 240 pounds.

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  • The Cubs played his walk-up music for him, and put together a nice tribute package on the video board for Starlin Castro – career highlights, nice moments – which culminated in this:


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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor of Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.

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