Joe Maddon said the only thing missing was the blood.
Anthony Rizzo hesitated to even put the two plays in the same sentence.
But if the Cubs make the playoffs – much less make any kind of run at that point – could Rizzo’s defensive play on Ryan Braun’s foul popup Wednesday night become the same kind of signature play that Derek Jeter’s 2004 dive into the stands became for him and the Yankees?
In a game the Cubs won 3-2 in the 10th, Rizzo took an at-bat away from the Milwaukee Brewers’ former MVP in the sixth inning by leaping onto the rolled up tarp, stepping onto the low wall and reaching over the first row of the stands to make the catch.
He then stepped into a suddenly vacated space in the stands and was able to keep enough balance to whirl and throw to second in an attempt to hold the runner at first.
“Probably one of the best plays I’ve ever seen in baseball,” starting pitcher Jason Hammel said.
When somebody suggested to Maddon that Rizzo might be getting a little reckless on a play like that, the manager responded:
“Of course. And then Derek Jeter was reckless, too.”
He was referring to Jeter’s 12th-inning face-first dive into the seats at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox after he couldn’t stop his momentum on a running catch near the foul line. Jeter emerged from the stands looking dazed, his faced bloodied.
“It’s like a basketball player that dives and ends up in the stands, and then people are picking him up and pushing him back out, and everybody thinks, `What a hustling play, what a great guy,’ “ Maddon said. “Derek – we all remember that particular play. The difference is we came out sans blood on this particular one, which I was really happy about.”
Rizzo: “I really don’t remember any of it. It all kind of just really slowed down at the moment, and once I made the catch everything sped up.”
He was just 14 when Jeter made his famous catch. But he remembers seeing that one.
“Of course. I don’t know what baseball fan hasn’t,” Rizzo said. “But mine was nothing compared to his. His was just all out, face-in-the-stands. I kind of had a nice easy landing, which I feel very lucky for.”
The play, by the way, originally was ruled no catch, until Maddon argued that the catch was made in play and therefore should be an out. The umpires huddled and then got the call right – in the process allowing the runner to take second because Rizzo had carried the ball out of play after the catch.
“They were really straight up about it,” Maddon said of the admission. “I thought it was outstanding. It’s so cool. When you go out to talk to umpires and they actually say that I should have did this instead, that’s a beautiful thing, man. They did a great job getting the call proper.”
The Cubs got out of the inning, preserving what was a 2-1 lead at the time.
Rizzo said he’d never practiced the move before but has asked a lot of umpires what the rule would be on a catch like that.
“I got half the responses saying you’re not allowed to go up there onto the wall and half say you are allowed to go up there,” Rizzo said.
“It’s just one of those things where instincts take over. You kind of know what’s at stake right now, so every little play matters.”