Clutch Cubs extend win streak to five in a row
Perhaps the most pivotal play of the Cubs' extra-inning victory over Milwaukee on Saturday never actually happened.
In the bottom of the 10th inning, Ian Happ was on third base with one out. Franmil Reyes lifted a pop fly to short left field. Christian Yelich caught the ball on the run, Happ watched the play unfold and tagged up. If he scored, the game was tied, if he was thrown out, the game was over.
We'll never know how it would have turned out. Yelich dropped the ball as he tried to make the transfer from the glove to his throwing hand and Happ scampered home with the tying run.
An inning later, Willson Contreras delivered a walk-off RBI single and the Cubs had a thrilling 6-5 victory at Wrigley Field.
They've won five in a row and are 11-4 in the last 15 games. Contreras also hit a 2-run homer in the fifth inning, his 20th of the season.
So what was going to happen on that potential play at the plate?
"Yeah, I don't know. Good question," Happ said. "It was one of those plays where you're kind of looking to take a chance there, just because of the situation. I can't exactly tell you if I was going to read the throw or if I was going to go."
Ultimately, the hypothetical doesn't matter. To start with, Happ set things up by stealing third base -- the Cubs fourth stolen base of the day -- and made the right play by forcing Yelich to make a throw.
"I honestly can't tell you how that would have played out," Happ said. "If he comes up with that clean, I think we're probably taking a chance. But if it comes out of his hand really, really hot, I'm probably turning around and trying to get back to third."
Another pivotal moment happened in the bottom of the ninth. The tying run stood on second base with two outs and Nick Madrigal fell behind 0-2 as he faced Milwaukee closer Devin Williams.
That's a perfect scenario, right? Madrigal was known as "Nicky Two Strikes" when he played for the White Sox because of his ability to deliver when the count is not in his favor.
Madrigal fouled off two pitches, took one, and dropped a soft line drive just over the head of second baseman Kolten Wong to send Patrick Wisdom around with the tying run.
"Lot of good things that went into that win today," manager David Ross said. "Confidence is a strong thing in this game and these guys have got a lot of it right now."
Wisdom tied the game in the 11th by leading off with an RBI double. But he injured his left index finger after he was thrown out trying to score on a ground ball. Ross said they'll take X-rays and have an update Sunday.
A couple more standouts were starting pitcher Marcus Stroman and the defense of shortstop Nico Hoerner. Hoerner has been first or second among MLB shortstops in defensive runs saved for most of the year.
Stroman started the game by walking Yelich, then Willy Adames singled and a run eventually scored on a ground out. After that, Stroman kept Milwaukee at just 1 hit into the eighth inning.
"That's as good as I've seen him," Ross said. "That ball was moving all over the place. He had some really good stuff today."
By the eighth inning, a light rain had started falling. After getting the first out, Stroman slipped while throwing a pitch to Keston Hiura. He skipped off the mound then walked around the infield. The trainer came out, Stroman threw a practice pitch and stayed in the game.
"Kind of hyperextended my left knee a little bit," Stroman said. "More scary than anything, but I was fine right after it."
Stroman then retired Hiura on a line drive to left. Ross visited the mound, decided to leave him in, but Stroman left after 96 pitchers when Yelich singled.
As Stroman walked off the field to a standing ovation, he lifted his arms above his head and pounded his bare fist into his glove to thank the fans.
But Rowan Wick came in from the bullpen and surrendered a go-ahead home run to Adames.
"I think it's more just adding onto the how I felt in my last five, seven starts," Stroman said. "I feel like I've been building off every one. Body feels good, just mechanically I feel like I'm getting locked in. Defense was incredible."