The Rundown: Triple Trouble Dooms Cubs, Tommy La Stellar?

In their season-long attempt to find new and interesting ways to fail to advance runners and take advantage of seemingly certain run-scoring situations, the Cubs finally achieved peak futility. Looking to add some insurance to a three-run lead in the top of the 5th innings, the first two batters reached safely. And then this happened…

So that was awesome. The way Rhys Hoskins — who homered in every game of the series to give him 11 dingers in his first 76 plate appearances — slid to catch the ball, I was sure it was going to shoot under his glove for a possible inside-the-park homer. Then I was sure that he had trapped it, though replay confirmed that the ball had remained nestled safely in his glove.

Anthony Rizzo, who was on second after walking to lead off the frame, was off on contact and was easily doubled off when Hoskins threw it back in. And Tommy La Stella, who had singled to give the Cubs two runners with no outs, was following Rizzo’s lead and was a dead duck on one of the easiest triple plays you’ll ever see.

“It was like such a tweener play,” Joe Maddon said after the game. “Once (Hoskins) rolls over, obviously we couldn’t tell anything. Jerry (Layne, the 3B ump) did call (Javy) out immediately, baserunners have to advance at their own risk right there.

“It was an extremely strange play. But the umpire called it properly, so we messed up on the bases.”

And that’s the thing, it’s hard to really blame Rizzo or La Stella, since the play was such that holding at the bases could have resulted in a double play had Hoskins indeed trapped the ball. He’d have probably at least thrown Rizzo out at third.

“I made an aggressive read, guy made a nice catch and obviously when you’re committed…it’s three outs,” Rizzo lamented. “I saw it as a topspin ball and obviously I read it wrong, but I thought it was down for sure. I didn’t even see it. I saw it on the replay, ’cause I just put my head down thinking to score.”

As a fan, it’s kind of hard to be mad about a play like that because, well, it’s a freaking triple play. How often do you get to see those at all? And yet, there was this nagging feeling that immediately followed the “Oh s#%*” coolness of the play, which was more like “Oh s#%*, now what’s going to happen to the Cubs?”

Even as someone who prides himself in being really pragmatic about things and eschewing talk of curses or jinxes or whatever, I had a sinking feeling that the sharp turn of events would come back to bite the Cubs. That sense was no doubt enhanced by the fact that John Lackey, a man whose ass remains in a perpetual state of redness, was on the mound. I could almost sense the wheels falling off as the Phillies jogged happily back to the dugout to start the bottom of the inning.

Pedro Florimon popped a bunt just over Lackey’s glove to lead off.

Lug nuts tumble to the ground, but no imminent danger

Cameron Rupp reached on an error as the ball scooted just under Kris Bryant’s glove and trickled into left, allowing Florimon to make it all the way to third.

More lugs skitter across the pavement as the car now lurches drunkenly to the side

A lineout by Hyun Soo Kim had things looking better for a moment, but then Lackey started getting slider-happy and the poo hit the fan. A wild pitch to Cesar Hernandez, who would eventually walk, allowed Florimon to score. Another wild pitch to Freddy Galvis let Rupp and Hernanez advance to second and third, after which Galvis singled to score both.

Tires wobbling madly, car careening across center line

After throwing 10 straight sliders, Lackey felt it was time to change things up, so he piped a fastball middle-in to Nick Williams. Dong.

Tires bounce away down the road as car spins wildly and throws off sparks before grinding to a halt

It was all academic from there, as even all the profane wind blowing angrily from Lackey’s maw couldn’t puff up the Cubs’ sails from that point forward. They’d scored three runs in the top of the 1st against a mediocre pitcher and had stopped right there. Hoskins went on to launch a homer to close the scoring, which was cool because he’s hit a lot of them and that’s fun to see. But good luck telling Cubs fans to take solace in the exploits of a young stud hitter for the opposing team.

Nothing else to say on this one, really. I immediately pushed it out of my head and proceeded to my first fantasy football draft of the season, during which one guy chose the Bears’ Cam Meredith even after I’d warned of his season-ending injury earlier in the day. And speaking of, I did find it awesome that both Lackey and Mitch Trubisky were serving up home run balls at pretty much the exact same time in their respective games.

What if La Stella is good?

I keep thinking it’s a matter of time before he comes back to earth, but Tommy La Stella just keeps hitting the crap out of the ball and it’s kind of crazy. Like, to the extent that the dude needs to be in the lineup on an everyday basis, at least for now.

But what does that mean long-term, since the Cubs have something like 14 second basemen on the roster right now? Depending on how they want to roll, dude could actually be a pretty decent trade chip. Then again, he said last year that he’d retire before playing for another team.

Things have changed with La Stella, though, and it seems he’s in a much better place both emotionally and physically. Now it’s a matter of seeing how he best helps the organization moving forward.

More news and notes

  • Matt Harvey will be activated from the DL Friday; no word on whether the Mets will send team security to his apartment to escort him.
  • The Pirates’ Jung Ho Kang is expected to play in the Dominican Winter League after being charged with another DUI this winter and failing to secure a visa.
  • Brewers prospect Julio Mendez suffered a cardiac event after being hit in the chest by a pitch during the 9th inning of an Arizona League game Sunday. This is some scary stuff.
  • Please keep the people of Houston the surrounding areas in your prayers as they try to make it through the devastation from Harvey. And please find a way to give your time or money if you have any of either to spare.
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