This is the stuff that happens to good teams.
Bad teams waste amazing plays. Bad teams allow blown saves to sink them. Bad teams look for excuses. The Cubs could have done all of that tonight, almost did, in fact. But this isn’t a bad team and we saw why not in the 10th inning of a 2-2 game that probably should have ended in regulation.
Hector Rondon had an interesting go of things Sunday afternoon, loading the bases before striking out three straight to end the game and seal a sweep of the Giants. He looked to be at it again on Wednesday as he gave up a weak single to Ryan Braun and then saw Adam Lind reach on a grounder up the middle that Addison Russell misplayed. A wild pitch to Khris Davis allowed both runners to advance before Rondon got the first out by justifying the spelling of the batter’s name.
Rondon then struck out ScootBLAN Gennett on the same devastating slider that had previously fanned Davis. But trouble was a-brewin’, as the same pitch that had nearly gotten the Cubs closer out of a jam was the same one that had put him there in the first place. It would also be the reason the game went to extras, as Rondon skipped another pitch in while facing Jean Segura, allowing Braun to score.
But if you think I’m blaming Rondon here, or if you’re doing so yourself, you’re doing it wrong. The weak contact to Braun was a bit of luck and the next baserunner was there because of an error. And that first wild pitch was on Montero, a fault the recently-returned catcher admitted after the game. He was able to finish the job with another K, but the damage was done. This is part of the problem with a pitch that sick; sometimes it’s going to throw up on you.
There’s plenty of statistical analysis to support Rondon’s rightful claim to the 9th inning throne, so I won’t spend time with that now. Besides, if you’re pointing to the pitcher and complaining about the Cubs blowing the lead, I’m pretty sure there’s nothing I can do to help you.
In any case, the Cubs’ 9th was pretty inglorious and gave way to what was almost an interesting (in a bad way) half-frame for the Broors. Tommy Hunter came on and immediately struck out Elian Herrera before getting both Jason Rogers and Shane Peterson to line out to Chris Denorfia, who had replaced starter Khal Schwarber in left for defensive purposes. Well played, Maddon.
The second grab was particularly nice, as Deno tracked the ball with his back to the ivy, leaping and connecting pretty solidly with the bricks as he hauled in the third out. It was enough to elicit this excited response from yours truly:
@Cubs The King in the Norf!
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) August 13, 2015
You know how I said earlier that bad teams look for excuses and try to hide their mistakes? And how this is not a bad team? Well, Miguel Montero was the personification of how not bad they are tonight. He was clearly looking for a bit of atonement as he stepped into the box to take his cuts against Michael Blazek in the bottom of the 10th. Why Craig Counsell opted not to go with a lefty against a guy who’s had some pretty bad splits against them is beyond me, but I’m glad he did.
Montero took the first offering, a 76 mph curve, for a strike, but he was sitting dead red on the heater that came next. Almost leaving his cleats in the box, Miggy took a mighty cut and absolutely blistered the pitch into the bleachers in left-center, a very loud opposite-field walk-off.
Oh boy, that was pretty. I’m still smiling as I see it again.
There were some Cubs fans out there lamenting the fact that the team had perhaps thrown up the white flag of surrender when they played small-ball at the trade deadline. Well, they’ve been waving white flags alright, but these all appear to have big blue W’s on them.
And as if the moment couldn’t have been any better, Montero jumped on a headset to do a quick interview with Len and JD. With the strains of Go, Cubs, Go ringing out behind him, Montero celebrated his winning hit. But he also owned the mistakes he made that had necessitated his heroism in the first place. Well, after a Gatorade shower, that is.
“You know what? I gotta block that ball, so I take the blame on me. Rather than block [Rondon’s slider], I tried to pick it, you know, and that can’t happen, especially [in a] one-run game. You gotta be better than that. I take full responsibility for that, but you know what? It won’t happen again.”
I love this. First, kudos to the Cubs broadcasters for not shying away from a question they easily could have chosen to ignore in light of the celebratory mood. And second, good on Miggy for stepping up and offering contrition for his part in blowing the lead earlier. This team has already seen its fair share of heroes through two-thirds of a season and it’s likely to see a few more.
But for my sake, and for the sake of all those suffering panic attacks as a result of these close games, it would be super nice if the Cubs could stop setting buildings on fire just so they can save people.