The team with the reigning Cy Young winner on the mound gets outpitched by the team starting a 30-something journeyman who might get traded by Monday’s trade deadline?
The team buzzing over its trade for the best available closer on the market loses in the ninth inning?
The team that can’t keep its players from vandalizing their own uniforms stays focused long enough to beat the so-called World Series favorites with a walkoff single in the ninth?
Welcome to the latest installment of Cubs-Sox, where White Sox second baseman Tyler Saladino got things started Monday night with a single to center off Cubs newcomer Mike Montgomery for a 5-4 victory in the first of four straight games this week between the clubs.
“The last few days have been tough ones, and we’re still fighting and winning games,” said Sox manager Robin Ventura, whose club won on a walkoff for the third straight game – in the aftermath of last week’s for-sale sign and ace Chris Sale’s uniform-shredding tantrum over the weekend.
It was the first time since 1962 the Sox won three straight on consecutive walkoffs.
“When we play each other it’s always a pretty intense atmosphere, and the players on each side are always into it as well,” said Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, who appeared headed to a second consecutive strong start out of the break before a two-out, three-run homer by Todd Frazier made it a 4-0 game in the sixth.
“It just really came down to that one pitch and not being able to execute it like I wanted to,” he said.
Arrieta, who still figures to be the biggest difference maker for the Cubs this season after they acquired 105-mph closer Aroldis Chapman Monday, looked like he was building off his seven-inning start five days earlier until the Frazier homer.
“Jake was really good,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said, “except the one pitch.”
He’s still looking for his first win since June, and second quality start since June 17.
The National League’s reigning Cy Young winner looked like the pitcher who was that dominant factor for last year’s playoff team when he retired seven of the first eight he faced – before Saladino’s one-out double in the third turned into a run when Adam Eaton followed with a single to right.
Arrieta retired nine of 10 after that until walking to Melky Cabrera with one out in the sixth, three batters ahead of Frazier.
Meanwhile, Miguel Gonzalez — who drew the attention Monday of scouts from contenders looking for starting help — allowed just five hits in six scoreless innings against the Cubs until Miguel Montero and Javy Baez led off the seventh with a double and two-run homer, respectively.
Gonzalez retired Dexter Fowler and Kris Bryant before giving way to Zach Dukes, who got Rizzo on a popup to end the inning.
Despite Saladino’s headline-making heroics in the bottom of the ninth it was the guy in left field in the top of the first and top of the ninth with an even greater play-making impact on the outcome.
“I’m revoking Melky Cabrera’s membership at my wife’s gym in Tampa,” Maddon said.
Cabrera leaped at the wall to rob Kris Bryant of a home run in the first inning, then prevented the Cubs’ tying rally in the ninth from becoming a bigger inning – throwing out Bryant at second trying to stretch a single for the first out of the inning after a run had already scored.
Bryant’s strange and befuddling day at the plate also included an inning-ending single in the third. With Baez rounding third from second on the hit to left, Bryant headed toward second on the throw home – resulting in an eventual 7-2-4-2 out at the plate.
“I think this series always ends up with some weird stuff,” Ventura said.