There are certain times when it’s O.K. to be aggressive in a one-run ball game in the ninth inning. The Cubs, or at least one Cub in particular, did not play smart ball and in the end the Cardinals held on to a 3-2 victory in their series opener Monday at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.
Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal improved to a perfect 7-for-7 in save situations against the Cubs, thanks in a big part to over-aggressive baserunning.
Rosenthal came into the ninth inning with some confidence issues and advanced scouting by the Cubs should have told them that. Rosenthal was throwing nothing but fastballs and only half of them were getting over the plate.
After Addison Russell struck out a ball four over his head to start the ninth, Albert Almora Jr. doubled to center to start the Cubs rally. Rosenthal then plunked Chris Coghlan and just like that, Rosie created a rally.
His next pitch to Ben Zobrist, who is perhaps the Cubs’ best clutch hitter, was in the dirt and headed past catcher Yadier Molina. The ball fortunately caught the leg of the home plate umpire and stopped right behind Molina who fired a strike to nail Almora Jr. at third.
“Yadi is one of the best in the game, and he threw me out. I’m an aggressive player. … I feel like I let my team down. It’s a tough one to swallow,” said Almora Jr. after the game.
“I think we got lucky there,” Rosenthal said. “Looking back at it, the umpire helped us out, but the other part about Molina’s game is his arm. He’s got an amazing arm. He always makes accurate throws, and when I saw that, I thought we had a good chance for him to throw Almora out there at third.”
In that situation:
1) clutch hitter at the plate,
2) tying and winning runs on base and
3) a pitcher who has just unleashed two fastball into the left-handed batters box—as a base runner you better make darn sure that ball is hitting the bricks behind home plate before you take off for third.
Zobrist slashed a single to right, putting runners on first and third, and instead of a tie game, the Cardinals still held the lead. Rosenthal jammed Jason Heyward with a 98 mph fastball busting the former Cardinals’ bat into a weak pop up behind second base to seal the victory.
Rosenthal threw 7 of 15 pitches for strikes, gave up two hits and hit a batter, but picked up his 13th save.
Thank you Chicago.