Once Upon a Yesterday: Mother’s Day Edition
Throw it back to a Cubs walk-off win on Mother’s Day 2016
We’re gonna do things a little bit differently today. Traditionally with OUY, I aim to go back to that day in history seeking out a matchup between the Cubs and their opponent and look at a snapshot. May 12th, 2019 also happens to be Mother’s Day, so we’re gonna travel together to my favorite Cubs memory from this holiday. This one yielded nuggets aplenty.
*I’ve officially changed the acronym to OUY, formerly OUAY. Since it’s my acronym I’ve also decided the pronunciation is exactly like the Australian “Oi.” I digress.
In 2016, Mother’s Day fell on May 8th. This was the fourth and final game of a highly anticipated series between the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field. I think many out there remember how the game ended, but this game and series had ripple effects across the rest of the campaign. The series was billed as a preview of the NL Pennant between the 19-8 Nats against the 20-6 Cubs. The Cubs had shocked the baseball world in 2015 with an unexpected deep postseason run, cut short by Daniel Murphy and the New York Mets in the NLCS. Murphy then signed with the Nats as a free agent. As near perfect mirror images, the Cubs organization and Kris Bryant were both working to prove that 2015 was no fluke. So far so good. The Nationals 2015 campaign ended in postseason tears (par for the course), but Bryce Harper put up a monster season a scored himself an MVP award. This series was gonna show us something special, and what we got was something interesting. It’s easy to forget now, but at the time a lot of people credited Joe Maddon with “breaking” Bryce Harper. Despite not having a repeat of his MVP season, Maddon refused to let Harper be the one to beat the Cubs, as he walked him in seven of 12 plate appearances leading into the series finale.
The starting pitchers for this game were Tanner Roark for the Nationals and Jake Arrieta for the Cubs. I mentioned mirror imagery above, and I’m going to double down on the word porn as I point out the beautiful symmetry of past and future happening between these two teams right now. While not all on the field at the same time, the 2015 NL MVP and Cy Young winners were looking across the dugout and staring at the man who would take that title from them in 2016. I can be so verbose. Jake was decent to solid on this afternoon. He gave up three runs (two earned), struck out seven, and walked four through five innings. Roark was a bit better, as he only allowed one unearned run, struck out seven, and didn’t allow a free pass through six innings. What happened next has been painfully frequent in DC since 2012: the ‘pen blew it.
In the bottom of the seventh, Oliver Perez came in to pitch for the Nats with the 3-1 lead, as Roark was subbed out for a pinch hitter in the top half of the inning. Perez gave up a single to Cubs pitcher Trevor Cahill, hit Dexter Fowler, and Jason Heyward laid down a sacrifice bunt. He was pulled in favor of Yusmeiro Petit, who was tasked with getting out of the inning with the lead intact. He didn’t. The first hitter he faced was Kris Bryant, who hit a single that scored both Cahill and Fowler to tie the score. Petit really gets hosed on the box score, but his only real hiccup of his 3.2 IP was this single to the future MVP with inherited runners in scoring position. History remembers that Yusmeiro Petit blew a save, and Oliver Perez was credited with an official hold for his stellar work. The score would remain tied through nine with little action outside the final out, which is something you don’t see every day: a runner out after being struck by a batted ball. Anthony Rizzo drilled Heyward, who had singled earlier in the ninth. When a player is having a rough stretch, even freak luck pays you no mind.
There was some real excitement in extras. In the tenth, the Nationals had the bases loaded with two outs after the Cubs walked Bryce Harper for the fifth time in the game to get to Ryan Zimmerman. It worked, Zimm lined out. In the bottom of the 11th, it was the Cubs turn. Jason Heyward singled ahead of a deep double by Kris Bryant. KB was nearly the hero for a second time this game, but in a close call, Heyward was out at home. Maddon challenged it to no avail. The 12th inning was a shampoo inning of the tenth (rinse and repeat). Following a two-out single by Ben Revere and a walk to Anthony Rendon, Joe Maddon had a decision to make. It was probably pretty easy, to be honest. He elected to walk Bryce Harper for a record-tying sixth time in the game to once again load the bases for Ryan Zimmerman. Maddon dared Zimm again and got his favored outcome, a groundout to end the inning. Harper had seven plate appearances and zero at-bats in this game thanks to six walks and one hit-by-pitch.
Fortunately, the Cubs never had the opportunity to give Harper the title of most walks in an MLB game, as things came to a close before he batted again. In the bottom of the 13th with one out and nobody on, Javier Baez, the “free swinger,” came up to face Nats reliever Blake Treinen. On a 2-2 pitch, Javy did something we’d grow accustomed to in the coming years. He sent us home with a smile.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms in our lives! Love ya, Ma.
All statistics and dates courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
Featured Photo: David Banks/USA Today Sports