Whether Joe Maddon’s fiery exchange with umpires Wednesday night proves to be a harbinger of less tolerance as the games get bigger down the stretch, the Cubs manager seemed sure of only this much by Thursday: He may have helped prevent the apocalypse.
“Listen, I really believe had I not done that and the game ended differently, you might have seen [Ben Zobrist’s] first ejection,” Maddon said. “He was that upset.”
The call in question came in the ninth inning of a tie game when Zobrist, squaring to bunt, was hit by a pitch. Initially he was awarded first base, loading the bases with none out until first-base ump Chris Conroy inexplicably ruled that Zobrist offered at the pitch as he twisted to keep the ball from hitting his back shin.
It came just four days after Zobrist got called out on strikes to end a 6-2 loss in Arizona. The call was bad enough that the home-plate umpire apologized to Maddon the next day.
The slow-to-anger Zobrist, who admitted Wednesday night he might of had to be restrained if the Cubs had not pushed the winning run across, returned to the plate and tapped to the pitcher to advance the runners. A wild pitch gave the Cubs the victory.
As surprising as nice-guy Kris Bryant’s first career ejection was two weeks ago, this would have been stunning, Maddon said.
“Had the game continued [into extra innings] I really believe that something may have occurred that we have never seen before,” Maddon said. “We’ve got the [solar] eclipse coming up, what, Monday? You got Zobrist arguing with an umpire, getting kicked out, and then an eclipse within a couple, three or four days?
“That’s when you worry about the apocalypse at that point.”
Paging Joe Torre
Maddon said he had not heard yet from Major League Baseball regarding his inevitable fine or a possible suspension for Wednesday’s actions, which may have included making contact with crew chief Ron Kulpa after arguing with first-base ump Conroy.
Maddon said Kulpa “might be the best umpire in the game right now” and said he doesn’t believe he made contact.
“If I did, it was basically just patting somebody on the back or something,” said Maddon of what might be the only gesture he didn’t make during the incident.
The Cubs outhomered the Reds 6-2 and scored 10 runs Thursday but lost 13-10 to split the series.
Rookie Ian Happ hit the first Cub homer and added another in a four-homer fourth. When Alex Avila, Happ and Javy Baez hit consecutive homers in the span of four pitches in the fourth inning, it marked the first time the Cubs hit three straight since 2004 against the Pirates (Derrek Lee, Sammy Sosa and Michael Barrett).
Justin Wilson’s struggles since joining the Cubs continued.
The left-hander walked both batters he faced with the Cubs trailing by a run in the eighth and was pulled. One of the runners eventually scored on a grounder.
Wilson has walked seven and allowed nine hits and four earned runs in 5⅓ innings as a Cub (6.75 ERA).
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