A late September thrilling win over the team chasing the Cubs in the standings … yup, there’s still a whole lot to say.
A couple things I want to note in this post had the potential to be torture to write about today if the Cubs had lost.
For example, I knew the strike zone was really bad last night. I knew that it had cost the Cubs a run in the 7th inning, and I also knew it squeezed Jake Arrieta out of the game after five innings when he otherwise might have been able to go six. It was just bad. You could tell watching. So, if the Cubs had lost, I knew it was going to be awful to have to look at the following charts and think of what might have been if the game weren’t being called by flipping a coin:
I mean, what in the fresh hell is that? I know calling balls and strikes is difficult, but that is a bruuuuutally bad strike zone. Both teams were hurt/helped by it, so whatever, but that performance is going to merit a phone call from the league. Even if I’m generous and give the ump the “typically called” zone for his strikes, and the rule book zone for his balls, I still count 23(!) incorrect calls.
And then there’s the decision to double-switch Jason Heyward out of the game in the 7th inning, ostensibly to push back the pitcher spot two spots so that Pedro Strop could stay in to pitch the 8th inning. Maybe I’m missing some additional context (injury, etc.), but on its face, this was a terrible decision, and that’s without even considering the fact that Strop ultimately didn’t pitch the 8th inning. Strop’s spot in the order would have been due up 5th in the next inning, admittedly a key spot if the Cubs got something cooking. But if that happened, deal with it then! Don’t take out one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball in a one-run game in the seventh inning to save two spots in the batting order!
I am *EXTREMELY* glad that this is all academic and the Cubs won, and Happ scored the tying run in the 9th. Because, of course, the very next batter after Heyward was pulled hit the game-tying single to right field, where Happ had taken over for Heyward. Video here, me not being salty here:
FWIW, not just being salty. Here's where ball landed after Happ had already slowed up. Heyward plays shallower & comes in better than anyone pic.twitter.com/TAFiPkFSkS
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) September 22, 2017
There is no doubt in my mind that, if the ball were hit the exact same way to the exact same spot, Heyward makes the catch. Those sinking liners coming in to his left are right in his wheelhouse. Moreover, Happ would have had a play if he’d decided to go for it (to his credit, I actually don’t think *he* should have risked a dive), because it actually hung up a bit. Heyward probably plays shallower, probably gets a quicker read, and probably makes a sliding catch. I don’t think I’m being controversial here.
Even if Heyward doesn’t catch it, maybe he rockets Keon Broxton out at the plate. Happ made it pretty close:
All that said, it’s worth pointing out that Happ’s speed and hustle on a grounder to lead off the 9th (and on a subsequent grounder to get to second base) directly led to the Cubs tying the game. So there’s no hate here for getting Happ into the game. It’s just … don’t double-switch Jason Heyward out of close games, please.
Speaking of Happ getting into the game, that guy deserves a serious pat on the back for the way he busted it out of the box in the 9th inning last night to lead things off for the Cubs and key the comeback:
That was one of five replays in the game, and it was one that I definitely didn’t think was going the Cubs’ way. At full speed live, it looked like Happ was easily safe. But on the many replays, to me, it certainly looked like Jeremy Jeffress got his spike down moments before Happ did. If I were a Brewers fan this morning, I’d be pretty chapped about this one.
One of the other key replays in the game that went the Cubs’ way definitely was correctly reviewed:
That was an excellent play by Anthony Rizzo, and a tremendous feat of athleticism from Jake Arrieta to track that shaky return throw and find the bag (with a hamstring he just got healed up!). Without that double play, the inning is still going and Arrieta’s pitch count is climbing up past a level where you’re comfortable, given his return from injury.
The win got the Cubs that much closer to clinching their third straight postseason, something they’ve not done since … wait, seriously: