Cubs tap ‘incongruity of baseball’ to earn doubleheader split

SHARE Cubs tap ‘incongruity of baseball’ to earn doubleheader split

CINCINNATI – They fell behind by five runs in one ugly second inning. They pinch-hit for the pitcher in the third. They used a pitcher to pinch hit in the seventh. They loaded the bases in the eighth with one out and got out of it with the help of a freak carom off the pitcher right to Anthony Rizzo, who threw to the plate for an out.

And the Cubs won it in the ninth when little-known, less-regarded Taylor Teagarden – the guy who had struck out twice on six pitches the previous two games – lined a 101-mph pitch from Aroldis Chapman up the middle for an RBI single with two outs.

Seven innings from the bullpen and six unanswered runs, and just like that the Cubs left Great American Ball Park Wednesday night with a 6-5 victory, doubleheader split and split of a three-day, four-game series. They lost the opener 9-1.

“That is about as crazy as crazy gets,” Maddon said. “You talk about a moment that’s great for esprit de corps, that’s it.”

Teagarden, the backup catcher who also finished off the game behind the plate, was the hero on one of the least-anticipated outcomes of the game – after Maddon had held his last non-pitcher back in the seventh, electing to use Jason Hammel to pinch-hit in the seventh.

“It’s the incongruity of baseball,” Maddon said after the Cubs avoided a four-game sweep by the margin of that incongruity Wednesday and a ninth-inning comeback, 13th-inning victory Tuesday night.

“[Teagarden] gets blown away by a 90 mph fastball [in the opener] that’s elevated, and all of a sudden takes 100 and hits it back up the middle. Please somebody explain that to me. I can’t.

“That’s what makes this game so wonderful. And that’s why you talk about never caving in and the relentless pursuit of fundamentals and technique, breaking the other team’s will. That’s how you win a game like that.”

And like this: The only play stranger than that was the game-saving defensive play by Rizzo with one out in the bottom of the eighth and the bases loaded and All-Star Todd Frazier up.

Frazier drilled a ball toward the middle that looked like a potential go-ahead shot – until it caromed off of pitcher Hector Rondon and straight to Rizzo, who fielded it as if it was a throw to him and threw to the plate for the second out.

Rondon then got Jay Bruce to pop to shallow left for the inning-ender.

“Man, it’s a good bounce for us. A huge bounce for us,” Rizzo said, especially with Frazier, who drives in runs all the time. …

“We play FIFA all the time in the clubhouse, and Hector and I are teammates. And I always tell him to pass. He never passes. So he finally passed the ball.”

None of the late-inning strangeness would have mattered if not for the five-run third inning the Cubs put up against struggling left-hander Tony Cingrani – to quickly erase the Reds’ five-run second.

The key sequence came when Reds manager Bryan Price elected to walk .173 hitter David Ross with two out and first base open, to load the bases for the pitcher’s spot – evidently overlooking the fact that rookie All-Star Kris Bryant, a right-handed slugger, was on the Cubs’ bench.

Maddon quickly sent Bryant to the plate for pitcher Dallas Beeler, and Price then elected to leave Cingrani in the game (for what turned out to be exactly two more batters) – and Bryant delivered a two-run, tying single to left.

“Huge,” Rizzo said.

The fact the Cubs were lucky to get out of Cincinnati without getting swept was not lost on Rizzo, who also realizes the team is just 5-5 through a stretch against losing teams – with the next 10 coming against the three last-place teams in the National League.

“We’re walking out of here kind of stealing two games from them,” he said, “especially this one. We know it’s a big stretch coming up, and we’ve got to be prepared to bring it no matter who we’re playing. We’ve talked about how we tend to get up for the bigger games. But every game is big from here on out.”

The Cubs open a three-game series against Philadelphia at home on Friday.

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