Like a lot of folks, in the moment, I thought Anthony Rizzo had goofed by not stepping on first base. In the moment, I was wrong. Turns out the whole thing was just kinda some bad luck.
If you missed it, and/or resetting the stage, the Cubs were trying to get out of the 11th inning without allowing a run. There was one out, and runners at first and third. Matt Beaty hit a hard grounder to Anthony Rizzo at first base, and rather than stepping three inches to his left to get the first out and then throwing to second, Rizzo threw to second right away. Thinking Rizzo had stepped on the bag, Javy Báez applied the tag, and that was the only out recorded. Run scores.
Here was the play:
If Rizzo stepped on first base and then threw to second, and if the tag on Will Smith wasn’t fast enough, Max Muncy was going to score from third before that tag was applied. So the inning would be over, yes, but the run would count because it was no longer a force play.
Alternatively, Rizzo could’ve stepped on first and thrown home, but pulling that off – with the tag then having to come around to the opposite side – would’ve been just as difficult as trying to pull off the step and then tag. So, by going for the traditional double play, Rizzo was trying to do the only thing he could to prevent the run from scoring.
It just didn’t work out.
“I knew if I stepped on the base and went home, it would’ve been do or die,” Rizzo explained after the game, per Cubs.com. “And so, I actually kind of tightroped first base, not touching it purposely to just get the double play, 6-3. But, I don’t think Javy saw that. As a baserunner, in that situation, I probably would’ve just stopped halfway [between first and second], because if I did do that, the run would score. So, I tried to just go for the 6-3 and I probably should’ve been screaming, ‘One, one, one!’ Usually, if I step on the bag, you’re yelling, ‘Tag, tag, tag!’ It just didn’t work out.”
It’s hard for me to blame anyone in hindsight, because Rizzo was so close to the base that Báez probably had no clue Rizzo hadn’t just stepped on the bag. And it’s hard to be mad at Rizzo for not yelling “one! one!” in a situation where you usually say nothing at all unless it’s “tag! tag!” Maybe a teammate should’ve been yelling about the return throw? But even then, it was all just such a flukey thing that it’s hard for me to beef too much.
So, that’s why it played out like it did. Had the ground ball been further from the bag, maybe it’s a smooth double play. Had the ground ball been right on top of the bag, maybe Rizzo steps and comes home with it. In the end, my initial reaction was wrong, and Rizzo tried to do the right thing. The timing and location just made it not work out.