Last night – before the pain and misery of losing at home in extra innings in an elimination contest after being beaten by the most annoying team in the NL Central in a tie-breaking game #163 also at home (*takes breath*) – the Cubs gave us a brief moment of reprise, which began with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
That’s when Anthony Rizzo singled and was lifted for pinch-runner Terrance Gore, who promptly stole second base and scored the game-tying run on Javy Baez’s two-out double.
But the fun didn’t end there. In fact, that wasn’t even the high point of our energy. The high point came in the next half-inning, when Pedro Strop heroically took the mound, racing back from a moderate hamstring strain faster than anyone could have realistically expected. He didn’t just get the job done in the 9th, he looked great doing it:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) October 3, 2018
With Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story due up first and second, Strop sure looked like he had his work cut out for him, and, of course, the question of just how healthy he actually was (and if he could even pitch well enough, having not thrown in a couple of weeks anyway) loomed large. But Strop came in HOT and looked NASTY. He struck out Arenado, gave up a single, got a groundout from Gerardo Parra, and struck out Ian Desmond looking, before exiting the mound with his trademark adrenaline-fueled passion.
For one very brief moment, I not only thought the Cubs were going to win, I thought they could actually advance deep into the tournament. After all, Pedro Strop was BACK. He looked awesome and that was *the* missing piece for the Cubs (you know, aside from “one whole offense, please”). Strop was gonna dominate for weeks!
But as it turns out … that’s not actually true. Not by a long-shot.
Pedro Strop told me that he was in severe pain but feigned that he was fine so they wouldn't take him out of the game; told me he wouldn't have been available for the next round. https://t.co/JbBZiuUlmT
— Marly Rivera (@MarlyRiveraESPN) October 3, 2018
First of all: Bruh. Toughness.
That is one hell of a gutsy performance in general – coming into that moment, after the Cubs just tied it up, and shutting the door – but to do it not only after multiple weeks without a competitive pitch, but while you’re also in “severe pain”? That’s the stuff of legends. That’s old school baseball. That’s bada**. And that’s a reminder that sometimes, guys play hurt and it’s almost impossible to tell (for better or worse), because the performance doesn’t show it. We want guys to get treatment and rest when they need it, but we also want them to perform when the bell rings. Heck, so do they. It’s why they play.
In a weird way, word of the pain is … relieving? Even if the Cubs advanced, they were not going to get their replacement closer back in the NLDS. And if he was really in severe pain, I think it’s pretty easy to guess that he wouldn’t have been back even beyond that. Beating the Brewers in the NLDS with this offense and after having watched each of Jose Quintana, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, *and* Kyle Hendricks all pitch in the last day and a half was already going to be a huge challenge. Doing it without Brandon Morrow, Pedro Strop, and a good Carl Edwards, Jr. was going to be a stretch. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have loved to see them try, but my imagined-what-could-have-been took a huge hit with the revelation of Strop’s pain.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better. Maybe I’m trying to make you feel better, but I think I believe that – at least, right now. But if there’s one thing I definitely know, it’s that Pedro Strop is an absolute monster who came up huge in the regular season by filling in as the closer when Brandon Morrow went down in July, and extended the Cubs season, even for a bit, while pitching through severe pain at Wrigley Field last night.
I don’t want to hear another bad word against him – or his beautifully askew hat – so long as he’s a Cub.
Get some rest, Pedro. Heal up. Do your thing again next year.