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One of the great things about baseball is that despite the thousands and thousands of games that have been played over the years, you can still tune in on any given day and see something you’ve never seen before. The Cubs and their fans are certainly no strangers to this, although the North Siders usually find themselves on the wrong end of baseball’s weird history. Incredibly though, last night, that was not the case.
Let’s start from the beginning. On a nationally televised Sunday night game of the week, the Seattle Mariners sent their ace “King” Felix Hernandez to the mound while the Cubs countered with… Brian Matusz, some jabroni they called up from triple-A earlier in the day to fill in as a sixth starter to give the regular rotation an extra day of rest. The game started off predictably, with King Felix dominating the Cubs lineup and Matusz throwing batting practice to the Mariners, giving up a two-run homer in each of the three innings he pitched.
After spending the middle innings failing to muster up a significant comeback, the pitchers started taking over. In the top of the seventh, down 6-2, the Cubs shifted reliever Travis Wood from the mound to left field after pitching the previous inning in case manager Joe Maddon wanted to put him back in to pitch. Maddon had made a similar fielding substitution earlier in the year, but the pitchers he put out there didn’t have any balls hit to them. That was not the case last night, though. Instead, Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutiérrez hit a shot to left field that Wood jumped into the brick and ivy wall to catch. That’s a play not a lot of natural outfielders can make, much less a god damn relief pitcher. Almost equally as impressive as banging into the brick wall to make the catch was Wood’s immediate throw to first base in an effort to double off the runner on first.
Then, after his excursion in the outfield, Wood came back to pitch again in the 8th and record the last two outs of the inning. In other words, just another day at the office for the lefty relief pitcher.
The Cubs then sent the game to extra innings after scoring three runs off Steve Cishek in the ninth, and concluded this wild comeback in the most fitting way possible for the night. With Heyward at third base and the pitcher’s spot due in the lineup, Maddon sent Jon Lester to pinch hit. Yes, the bench was so depleted at that point in the night that the Cubs had to send Jon “I have a career .051 batting average and can’t handle the bat for shit” Lester to the plate with a runner in scoring position. This looked like a guaranteed out. So what happened? He executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to score Heyward from third to cap off one of the wildest comebacks in Cub history. Of course.
This is not an ordinary occurrence for the Cubs. These are the exact types of games they used to lose with stunning regularity, and if they ever did start to mount a comeback like this back in the day, they’d find a way to fall flat on their face and come up short in the end. But not this year’s team. Joe Maddon said it best when he said in the postgame interview last night that these guys simply do not quit. That’s what makes the feeling after a win like that so much better. These are the games that special seasons are made of, and I can’t wait for later in the year when the Cubs are winning games with even crazier lineups. Here’s looking to Henry Rowengartner playing center field sometime in the postseason..