The Rundown: Outfield Basket Gives Cubs Big Win, Team Pays Tribute to ’69 Squad, Darvish Takes Bump Today

The best thing about Kyle Schwarber’s 10th-inning blast last night is not that it sent 39,788 Cubs fans home deliriously happy with a 4-3 win over the Reds, it was that for those of us watching on TV, we didn’t have to force ourselves to stay awake in between pitches by Raisel Iglesias.

“I was actually trying to hit a single up the middle,” said Schwarber, who connected on his first career walk-off homer and his 21st home run this season. “I didn’t want to get too big. I stayed up the middle but just got under it and hit it well enough for it to catch the basket there.”

I think Schwarbs just got tired of waiting for Iglesias to throw the damn ball. The Reds’ closer threw 23 pitches last night and took about 45 minutes of mound time to do so.

Fun fact: The addition of those outfield wall baskets was made in response to the wild 1969 season, when Wrigley’s famed “Bleacher Bums” would jump onto the field after wins and after an even wilder 1970 home opener that saw fans pour onto the field to tussle with both players and Andy Frain ushers. Seeing that the Cubs honored that 1969 squad last night, it was appropriate, if not downright romantic, that Schwarber’s home run landed squarely in said basket.

The first game with the basket was played on May 7, 1970. Seeing War Bear cross home plate with his teammates surrounding him in those ’69 throwbacks was quite the emotional moment for us veteran fans. I’m nothing if I’m not a softie for Cubs’ nostalgia.

As Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune noted in 2007, the basket “also prevented fans from draping coats and jackets over the outfield wall, a practice that used to inspire Cubs public address announcer Pat Pieper to playfully announce: ‘Will the bleacher fans please remove their clothes?’”

New catcher Martín Maldonaldo got the start last night, helping Alec Mills to a quality start that certainly could have gone off the rails in the first inning. Mills was brutal to watch early on, hitting three of the first 10 Cincinnati batters he faced while also giving up a towering home run to Eugenio Suárez. He settled down nicely after that.

Like Maldonado, Mills once played for the Royals, whom the Cubs acquired two years ago in exchange for outfielder Donnie Dewees. Ironically, Dewees is now in Iowa, playing for the Triple-A Cubs.

Now that I’ve given you about 3-4 drinks worth of bar trivia, the important thing to remember is that the Cubs won and pushed the last place Reds to 6.5 games out, and the Pirates beat the Cardinals, pushing St. Louis into third place in the crowded NL Central. The Brewers blasted the Braves 13-1 to keep pace with Chicago. Milwaukee now has sole possession of second place, 2.5 games behind the Cubs.

The North Siders will look to pad their lead in today’s rubber match. Yu Darvish gets the start and game time is 1:20 PM CT.

Cubs News & Notes

How About That!

In one of the wildest finishes in baseball this season, the Phillies came out on top 9-8 in Tuesday’s game against the Dodgers. Los Angeles took a two-run lead in the top of the ninth after a short rain delay, and then Philadelphia answered with three in the home half. Bryce Harper walked it off with a ringing two-run double to center.

If Harper is worth $330 million, what will Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich be worth when they are free agents? Each continues to pace the majors in home runs (video).

The Brewers are the latest team linked to Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray ahead of the this month’s trade deadline.

Tigers lefty Matthew Boyd could be the biggest catch of the season for contenders looking to fortify their rotations.

Edwin Jackson will be looking to catch on with what could be his 15th major league team after he was cut by the Blue Jays yesterday afternoon.

Tuesday’s Three Stars

  1. Glenn Sparkman – The Royals’ starter threw a complete-game shutout, allowing five hits with one walk and eight strikeouts to earn a victory against the White Sox on Tuesday. Sparkman had allowed 12 runs in his last nine innings coming into this outing and saw his ERA drop over 70 points.
  2. Bryce Harper – The National League’s richest player had a 2-for-3 night with five RBI in leading the Phillies over the Dodgers. That fifth ribeye was somewhat of a gift as centerfielder A.J. Pollock badly misplayed Harper’s ball.
  3. Alec Mills – It wasn’t a particularly splendid effort for the Cubs’ hurler, particularly since he hit three batters in the first two innings, but he settled down to give his team a chance to win. Mills finished with six strikeouts. While playing at Iowa this year, he hit just one batter in 80 innings of work.

On Deck

In case you didn’t catch Monday’s column…

I want to take one of our readers and one of their friends to the Cubs game on Sunday against the Padres. The prize includes two seats in the bleachers with me and two beers or soft drinks. You can eat as many hot dogs as you like, but you’ll have to buy those on your own. We have to arrive and leave separately, but you are both welcome to join me for a postgame drink at Murphy’s Bleachers, my treat.

Here are the rules to enter for a chance to attend the game:

  1. You must be at least 21 to enter with proof of ID.
  2. Leave a comment below stating your interest in attending.
  3. Find me on Facebook and make a donation of at least $5 to the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Woman’s Network through my Facebook fundraising campaign. You don’t have to make a social connection, I will leave my account publicly accessible through July 22.
  4. If you want to donate though their website instead, that’s fine, but I will need proof of your donation.
  5. I have three entrants so far. I was hoping for about 10-15.

Extra Innings

Now that the dust has settled on the Cubs big trade after Monday’s game, it’s somewhat important to remember that the Cubs have carried three catchers during the home stretch in almost every season of the Maddon era. Usually they get somebody via a waivers trade in August, but that’s no longer a possibility with just one deadline.

That’s not to say that more moves aren’t coming, and in fact, another trade or two is probably very likely given the team’s current roster construction. I just don’t think acquiring Maldonado automatically means the Cubs are going to trade Victor Caratini or that Theo Epstein is working on a bigger deal to acquire Whit Merrifield. I really don’t believe the Royals will trade Merrifield to anybody, at least not during the season.

They Said It

  • “[Keeping three catchers] would present differently. We’d have to parcel out the work in a manner that satisfies all of them, which would not be easy. But it would also open up pinch-hitting opportunities for guys in a good matchup situation. We haven’t decided. We’ve talked about that a little bit. But it’s hard to not acquire Martin Maldonado if he’s available. So this is one of those things that could be a classic win-win-win, according to Michael Scott [of the Office]. I really believe this will be a great opportunity for Mikey Montgomery in Kansas City and it’s a great opportunity for us and Martin here”Joe Maddon

Wednesday Walk Up Song

The Ghost in You by the Psychedelic Furs. Nice tribute to the ’69 Cubs last night.

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