It was the kind of thing you’d expect to happen to the Cubs.
With the same hitter up in the same situation as two innings earlier, he hits the same fly ball to the same outfielder who threw out the same runner at third to extend a game that should have been locked up much earlier and easier.That’s where the similarities or any link to the Cubs’ unfortunate and unlucky history ended. Instead of the same disappointment, Matt Szczur’s short pop-up against Radhames Liz dropped when Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco slipped and fell, allowing Starlin Castro to score from third and give the Cubs an 11-10 12-inning victory Friday.But instead of dwelling on the weirdness, Castro was reveling in the Cubs’ fifth straight victory.“It’s fun now. We’re having a really fun (time). We’re not (quitting). We never quit,” Castro said. “We go out there and win the game, no matter what inning. We never give it away.”
Two innings earlier, Castro was sent home by third base coach Gary Jones and likely was going again. Instead of needing to beat Polanco’s throw Castro was able to trot home with his right arm in the air and give the Cubs the kind of lucky win they’ll need to stay in contention this season.
“It means everything,” Castro said.
Yes, Friday’s win was dramatic and meaningful. If the Cubs make any kind of run, it’s the kind of win people could look back at fondly.
It was also needlessly dramatic.
“I could have lived without it,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We really should have put that away earlier.”
The Cubs, who led 7-1 and 10-5 thanks to home runs by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, didn’t put it away because of their bullpen. After Kyle Hendricks allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings but left in position for a victory, the bullpen allowed home runs to Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen, the latter a three-run shot off Pedro Strop pulling Pittsburgh to 10-9.
Still, the Cubs were one out away from a 10-9 victory in the ninth but closer Hector Rondon allowed a two-out double to Harrison before Francisco Cervelli’s game-tying single.
That the bullpen struggled the way it did Friday is cause for concern and needs to be addressed, but it was bailed out thanks to one of the most improbable endings in recent Cubs memory.
“Impossible. Impossible. Déjà vu all over again. Unbelievable,” Maddon said. “The way the whole thing played out was remarkable, and then we got lucky. We got lucky.”
Szczur did too. Given a second chance to be a hero, he produced the same short fly ball but was credited with a single on Polanco’s slip and fall.
“I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. I just crossed first base and was thanking everybody. I was like ‘Ah, thank God, this just happened.’”
Maddon said the Cubs didn’t pitch well but played a good game and that it would have been a sin if they hadn’t won. They did win, but in the strangest of ways.
“We could recap all the times we’ve had bad baseball luck this season, also,” Maddon said. “That was good baseball luck today, and we’ll take it.”
NOTES: Maddon anticipated David Ross would play Saturday and catch Jon Lester. Ross said he felt good a day after leaving Thursday’s game with what was called “abdominal tightness.”
– James Russell pitched two innings to make his 323rd Cubs appearance, tying Willie Hernandez for the most by a left-hander in team history.