For much of the game it looked as though the Cubs might finally come down from yonder ivory tower to wallow in the mortal mire with the rest of us. Thing is, Olympus is a pretty sweet place. And when you’ve got a pair of unicorns on your side, there’s really no reason to leave.
Trailing 3-1 in the 7th inning, Kris Bryant delivered two runs on a single to center to knot the game. That’s where it stayed for another six innings as the Cubs continued to walk Bryce Harper time and time again. It’s a strategy that easily could have backfired, but you have to admire Joe Maddon’s chutzpah in sticking with it no matter what. The Cubs were not about to let the mythical phenom beat them and his teammates weren’t able to take advantage of their own opportunities.
The Cubs themselves were unable to capitalize on multiple walk-off opportunities either, until one Javier Baez stepped up in the 13th inning. Travis Wood had struck out to lead off the inning and Javy appeared to be close to doing the same. Nats pitcher Blake Treinen was serving a steady diet of sliders and had gotten called and swinging strikes to run the count to 2-2. The old Baez would have had trouble with the next pitch, but this is not the same kid we saw in 2014 and ’15.
Treinen knew he could get the big swinger with another slider, so that’s what he threw with his fifth pitch of the at-bat.
“They’ve been killing me with the slider,” Baez said after the game. “I’ve been sitting on it, I’m feeling decent, I just couldn’t get it in the right spot. Finally they threw it for a strike.”
Oh, boy, did he ever sit on it. Baez knew what was coming and he absolutely crushed it out into left center, 418 feet from where he stood and admired it. There’s a lot of energy involved in turning an 88 mph pitch into a 107 mph hit, but that’s nothing compared to the output of the fans and Baez’s teammates. Pedro Strop reprised his bounding jaunt from the bullpen as the pile of pink-accented jerseys waited to welcome the walk-off hero.
The Cubs are now 24-6 and on pace for 130 wins. It’s illogical to assume they’ll reach that unfathomable height, but it would have been inconceivable to have projected them at where they are now. These are the games great teams find a way to win. The Cubs have now swept both the Pirates and Nats in consecutive series and look willing and able to take down all comers.
I’m running out of superlatives for this team and its exploits, so I’m just going to stop now. Besides, I think that video said enough. I’ll close with this then: I love you, Sarah; I love you, mom; I love you, Bubba; I love you, Grandma Altman and I wish you were still here so I could tell you in person; I love you, Jeanette and I wish you were still here too. Happy Mothers Day.